Blackouts attract social media anger
People have taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction with the current status of electricity supply in the country.
For the past few years, the country has been grappling with its worst electricity crisis in history and the Electricity Generation Company of Malawi (Egenco) has attributed the situation to declining water levels in Lake Malawi and subsequent low water flows in the Shire River where the company taps water for hydroelectric power generation.
The situation has forced Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), the company responsible for supplying electricity to the nation, to effect a load-shedding programme based on the amount of power it is receiving from Egenco.
Escom was unbundled at the beginning of this year, creating two companies; one responsible for power generation and the other distribution.
The unbundling was proposed as a measure to increase efficiency in power generation and create an enabling environment for Independent Power Producers to invest in power generation.
But, as it stands, generation capacity is now down to three quarters of the full-installed capacity at 295 megawatts against 361 megawatts.
People are now using social media to express their discontent with the situation.
One person wrote on his Facebook wall: “Home alone. Two boys playing, Escom izipsya mtima.”
Another wrote: “How can Escom have bright ideas when they are in darkness? And thank heaven, Escom doesn’t make our candles.”
Others are also questioning the intensity of the blackouts.
“Escom, I think you are playing games with our minds, mwathimitsa magesti dzulo, ayaka 2:22am pano mwathimitsanso 4:23am kuti zikhale bwanji? (There was no power yesterday until 2:22am and at 4:23am power is off again).
Another said: “The lamp has surrendered, seven hours of blackout. Ayi zikomo Escom ndi mwana wako (Thank you Escom and your child).
Yet another said: “Koma Escom yatsani magetsi kapena mwaiwala? Mpaka 14 hours (Escom, please restore power to our area, we have had a blackout lasting 14 hours)
Some are even quoting scriptures to demonstrate their frustrations with the current status quo.
“Escom ya fika pa mapeto pokhululukidwa malinga ndi 70*7ananena Ambuye uja. Nanga monse muja tinayamba kukhuluka muja (Escom has come to the limit of our forgiveness according to the 70*7 limit the Bible gives).
A mother of a small child wrote a satirical comment thanking Escom for boosting her daughter’s vocabulary.
“Thanks to Escom, Miss Jordie’s new favourite word is “akaya” meaning power has been restored.”
It has now become common that as the country moves into the summer season, blackouts also intensify and one person wrote, “Escom yayambanso kugawa ma blackouts (Escom has started to ration electricity again). Yesterday in Gulliver, we had a blackout from 5am to 10pm. Today, electricity went off at around five again.”
Another said: “If Escom were a human being, I don’t really know how I would have dealt with them.”
But the blackouts are expected to worsen as there is a huge difference between the demand for electricity and the power that is available for distribution.
The Journal of Energy in Southern Africa Volume 26 published in 2015 quotes Millennium Challenge Account Malawi Office Concept Paper for the Energy Sector as indicating that while the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown steadily by an average of seven percent per annum over the last five years, electricity gener a tion and supply has remained stagnant.
The paper further said energy needs are on the rise following the rapid increase in population and industry. It forecast that electricity shortages will cost the country around two to three percent of GDP.
Director of Solar Traders Association, Chisambazi Nyirenda, recently said the genesis of the current electricity crisis is largely attributed to lack of foresight and planning.
Nyirenda blamed policymakers for failing to match projected energy demand to requisite investment in power generation and distribution infrastructure.
“Our technocrats and policymakers had sight of projected growth statistics some years back and yet have failed to respond appropriately, hence the situation we find ourselves in; where glaring gaps exist between demand and supply of energy.
“This has impacted negatively on the economy’s ability to grow, let alone diversify from an agriculture-dominatèd economy to an industrialised economy with, say, mining and value-addition and services as major contributors,” he said.
Escom Public Relations Manager, Kitty Chingota, earlier admitted that power supply is dwindling but said the task of power generation is now in the hands of Egenco.
Egenco publicist, Moses Gwaza, said an improvement in power supply will be seen by the end of this year after the company finishes installing diesel generators in some parts of the country.