February 5, 2015
I lived in Nigeria up till about three years ago and we had become used to incessant power outages, unpredictable power supply, long days of darkness and a nonchalant set of … (fill in the gap) charged with the responsibility of ensuring that Nigerians were fully aware that they had the power to switch of power supply at any time T.
We grew up getting used to the sound of standby generators. The situation was such that in Lagos, a standby generator was a necessary part of the house furniture so much so that they even had a 9kVa version which students and those living in one-room rooms (not apartments) could afford. When a young man plans to move out of his father’s house, he must also plan for a standby generator. The noise was normal, the fumes were deadly but sadly, the ever-resilient Nigerians simply got used to it.
Every mobile telephone company in Nigeria knew that alternative power arrangements had to be made for every base station otherwise power outages would also translate to loss of reception in any cell covered by the affected base station. Companies supplying diesel sprang up just a few years after the GSM revolution started. Every company with anything close to a data centre also depended on these companies for regular supplies of diesel. Stories spread about staffers who connived with these suppliers to rip the big companies off in diesel deals.
Blackouts permeated our lives in Nigeria. We had become used to it. Any budding entrepreneur had to plan for it. Every event planner had to be mindful of power. Even the Federal Government budgeted for large diesel standby generators at some point to the dismay of just a few concerned citizens. Most Nigerians couldn’t care less! The Standby generator suppliers, Solar power companies et al formed a stronghold in Nigeria and I believe they even permeated the government such that any efforts to solve the problems of the grid on anything close to a permanent basis would be met with stiff resistance in the background.
I moved to Ghana in the year 2012. I had heard how uninterrupted power supply had been celebrated for ten years in Ghana. One week after I was here, my kid bother asked over the phone whether there was actually 24×7 power supply in Ghana, I responded by saying it was “25×8”! Things have changed a bit since then. Last year, the ECG was courteous enough to publish schedules of “Light On” and “Light Out” for different areas of Ghana. It became known as “Dum Sor”. I sure hope I spelt that right.
Close to the end of the year and into this year, we have sort of graduated to “Dum Dum Sor” because it appears that the ratio of darkness to light in what is no longer a schedule is 2 or more to 1! Well, they are still quite courteous; at least they have a Contact Centre where someone actually picks the phone when we call. That would have been a miracle of the century back then in Nigeria.
In my opinion, Ghanaians are simply not ready to live like this. The loss of reception of some mobile phone networks during power outages, the constant complaints, the discomfort at the noise of the neighbours’ generators and so on show that it is simply not something the average Ghanaian will get used to soon. I must add that if the Igbo businessmen who design standby generators in China and import them to Nigeria are allowed to visit Ghana even for a few years, they could just create a branch of that mafia in Nigeria which are not interested in a working power grid! Ghana beware!