Friday, March 11, 2011

The power to develop!

Everyday I am confronted with the hindrances to economic development that come from outside the country and from within. There never seems to be an easy or obvious solution to these problems and I spend hours each day just driving myself crazy trying to figure out why there are no jobs, why people are living in poverty and why the many natural resources are being thrown away. You can blame it on the lack of education, corruption in the government and cultural barriers, but there is a more obvious problem that I’m reminded of every time I come to work and hear the hum of the generator; Power cuts!

Lately the electricity shortage has been causing a lot of frustration and anger in Dakar. Often the electricity will go off in the morning about 10am and won’t turn on again until after 5pm! What could Senegal accomplish if there was reliable electricity?

1) People would be able to get work done during the day instead of waiting for the power to come back in the evening.

2) Factories and machinery could be built to increase economic growth.

3) Companies from outside of Senegal wouldn’t be so cautious about investing in the economy.

4) Street lights and business lights could run at night allowing longer hours of business and safety for those venturing out after 8pm.

And much more….

Now, I realize I can’t blame all of Senegal’s problems on the power cuts, but you have to admit, having power throughout the day would give Senegal a huge step up. And it seems so easy- just turn the power on!!

So why is Senegal living in the dark? I’ve been asking around to find a suitable answer. The Villon is Senelec(the state owned power company) that provides the power for all of Senegal (or at least they are supposed to). People call them "Societé des tenebres", litterally meaning the Company of Darkness. Some people have told me that it’s the outdated meters and equipment that is the problem, but its also just been bad planning. With the growing population of Dakar and increased usage of power for running factories and small business, Senelec simply didn’t plan for it and now they randomly cut power to make it last through the month.

What is needed is a new strategic plan, not for the month, but for the next 5 to 10 years that reflects population growth and increased usage. Even in the short term just having a schedule of when the power will be cut where would be an improvement and help people plan their day and schedule work. Unfortunately they aren’t even that organized yet...

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for the power to come back on at work, and reading by candle light in the evenings.


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  2. Kayla - Your frustration is palpable. According to the article, it sounds like they had good intentions in building capacity and then running wires to homes and businesses, but they chose fuel sources (sounds like mostly oil) for the power generation plants that have now become too expensive, and they have not been able to collect from customers enough revenue to pay the fuel bills. That and perhaps some poor management of operations at some plants which forced them offline have led to a situation in which there just isn't enough generating capacity for all the businesses and homes wired.
    What is your private generator burning?
    You mentioned elections coming in September before, but the article says next February. Is that right? Is Wade running for re-election? Is his son (Karim) also running? - Dad

  3. Elections are in 2012- I think February sounds right. Wade is not allowed by the constitution to run again, but he's working on it. He's also priming his son for the election which is wildly unpopular here.