BY PAUL NDIHO, WASHINGTON D.C
JANUARY 01, 25, 2011
Power blackouts, also known as “load shedding,” are one of Africa’s biggest challenges in the 21st century as the demand for energy is at all time high. Experts say more than 75% of African nations are facing serious electricity shortages. Paul Ndiho has more:
Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the fastest growing economies in the world. About one-seventh of the world’s people live in Africa but the continent generates only 4% of global electricity. More than half of the total population in sub-Saharan Africans has no access to power. But in central Mali, that situation is about to change:
“It has changed a lot to have electricity. Before, I needed a generator and it was expensive to pay for its fuel. I use the electricity also in the daytime for the fridge.”
Maimouna Sacko owns this small restaurant in the city of Seribala in central Mali. Until recently, she served breakfast and lunch in the dark.
She now gets electricity from a nearby power station, thanks to a national energy project and the World Bank.
“It is not even comparable to before. Now I work at night and also in the daytime I can sell cold drinks so I am selling more now than before.”
But still, only 24 percent of Mali’s population has access to electricity. That rate is even lower in rural areas like Seribala.
The energy project is reversing that by paying local private companies to operate off-grid power stations, such as the one providing energy to Seribala.
“All development depends on electricity. We can’t progress in obscurity. The people were in obscurity before we came. Now the city is doing well.”
The Mali project funds almost 50 private companies to manage about 80 power stations across the country. The stations provide power to 650,000 people and hundreds of public places. Shop owner Amadou Drame.
“We are happy. Even if the bill is sometimes expensive, I do all I can to pay and if there is a problem, the company comes and fixes it immediately.”
Amadou says since getting electricity he does business until 2 o’clock in the morning, and is able to provide for his family. Amadou’s success story could be repeated elsewhere on the continent – analysts say having reliable power could add more than 2 percent to the annual growth rate of the worst-hit African countries.