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Time to address power supply problems is now

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The frequency, and longevity, of power outages that Malawians are grappling with can be scaring in the neighbourhoods. And, to many like me, life has ground to a halt.

In minibuses, schools, offices and all such places, the story on people’s lips is that of power blackouts Malawi is experiencing, inconveniencing both companies and individuals.

Students preparing for crucial examinations have been affected adversely; so have patients in hospitals as well as employees intending to write work reports. No one has been spared.

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How I wish Malawi were like the United States, where even a single power outage can result in the resignation of the whole minister of energy because that would portend lack of ability to run the energy ministry, which is the bedrock of a nation’s success.

But, despite reaching such palpable worst levels, none, in terms of senior officials who should have been responsible for this, has resigned over failure to provide a service for which their job demands. Welcome to Malawi, the land of darkness.

For a long time, Malawi has, ironically, been banking on awfully battered electricity-generating equipment at Nkula and Tedzani. This is a fact.

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However, what boggles the mind is why, all these years, nothing has been done as preparatory work to ensure that the situation did not spill out of control.

Companies are operating at half mast. Production in some companies has been scaled down to an all-time low due to lack of power, as the costs of running production on diesel-powered generators have proven untenable for the productivity and sustainability of companies. The result has been downsizing as companies struggle to survive. This downsizing, as companies struggle to operate due to power supply challenges, will deepen poverty levels in Malawi.

Why do we let things go astray on our watch as if this country belongs to some people and not us? Despite this year’s Tropical Storm Ana-induced blackouts, it is clear that we, as a nation, have neglected the energy sector all these years. We have not invested in it as expected.

Lack of energy has a multiplier effect on other things. People who rely on electricity for cooking have resorted to charcoal, resulting in overdependence on forests, which is resulting in deforestation.

While neighbouring countries have made, and continue to make, progress in the area of power generation and distribution, Malawians continue to experience power outages when, in fact, it is only a handful of people that are connected to the national grid.

What should it take for Malawi to start doing the right thing? This is one of the questions I like to meditate over. This year, we may be experiencing these boring and lengthy blackouts but I would bet my last coin this is not the last time we are experiencing this.

Next year, during the same period, we will also be in for another shocker. Then I do not know what the officials will point a finger at. I hope they will not blame Tropical Storm Ana or the legendary monkey again.

Recently, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) officials assured, in the company of Energy Minister Ibrahim Matola, Malawians when ending the Aggreko contact that blackouts would not be severe when, in fact, the situation has become worse.

These are the worst power blackouts as far as I can remember, where neighbourhoods go beyond 8 hours of power outages.

When all these failures in the provision of critical services such as electricity happen, my mind is raced with unbearable pain on the role of the leaders we elect.

We elect leaders with the ultimate hope that they will improve our lives for the better but, in Malawi, things seem not to change with any administration we put into power.

My expectation is that leaders should do better so that people’s lives can improve.

*The writer holds a B.A in Business Communication from Mubas and likes writing on trending isssues.

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