Monday, February 26, 2007

What? Power blackouts again?

A report in the Arusha Times on 24 February shows the large impact that service failures can have poor countries like Tanzania.

Regular readers would know that the School of St Jude struggled to operate last year as the drought caused electricity rationing for 12+ hours a day. Since the rains at the end of the year the hydro-electric generation plants have come back on line and power has been restored.

Nevertheless, parts of the Central Business Area of Arusha have been in total darkness for the last two weeks. They have had no power because of a blown out transformer. Apparently TANESCO could not replace the transformer as it had none in store. ABB Tanelec has refused to sell it one because TANESCO could not also pay up-front and, although TANESCO is owned by the Tanzanian government, it is not credit worthy.

The power blackout is affecting businesses and essential services like schools and hospitals, and even the local radio station, Radio 5, has been off the air since 10 February. Just when meat vendors at the Central Market Place suffered a devastating blow due to an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever, those selling fish and chicken were restricted by the lack of power.

To Arusha residents and businesses the transformer failure is part of ongoing power problems. The town, despite the end of power rationing last December, still experiences daily power cuts.
In very poor countries, even important institutions like electricity companies struggle to provide basic services. Small things that go wrong can have major impacts that hold the country back, mired in the cycle of perpetuating poverty.

The School of St Jude bought two large new generators in 2006 to supplement the older ones it already had. It looks like these generators will be essential to the operation of the school for years to come.

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