News / Africa

    DRC Electricity Customers Question Bills

    x
    Nick Long
    Getting electricity is becoming easier across most of Africa, but not in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  A recent World Bank study found that people in Congo spend more of their income to get reliable electricity for business purposes than anywhere else in the world. Since that study was published, some Congolese have been questioning their electricity bills.

    In response to questions about its billing system, the national electricity company or Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNEL), has said that it intends to install more prepaid electricity meters across the capital Kinshasa - so that less power is wasted and people pay for what they use.

    Currently most of SNEL’s customers pay on a flat rate system, which the company says is losing it money.

    People in Goma that VOA spoke to said they hoped SNEL is serious about installing meters. They have noticed that in neighboring Rwanda, where all the national power company’s customers have meters, they appear to get much better value for money.

    Congolese electrician Samson Ndako has spent a lot of time in Rwanda. He says the electricity supply is regular in Rwanda.   He says they do not often have power outages, and when they do, they announce it on the radio - they tell customers when it’s going to happen and after one or two hours the power is restored.

    Ndako says he has found that when he is living in Rwanda, a dollar’s worth of pre-paid electricity units lasts him from a week to 10 days.

    But in Goma, living in the same kind of apartment and using the same appliances - a radio, TV, CD player and laptop - he says he is paying a lot more for less power.

    He says in his neighborhood, they pay a flat rate.  He pays $10 or $11 a month, and he does not get regular electricity. It is on for about two hours a day.  And, those hours are not at regular times.  He says sometimes they send him power during the night, from 10 or 11 pm to 4 or 5 am, but he says he does not need electricity at that time because he is in bed.

    There is a local association in Ndako’s neighborhood which paid for a SNEL line to be installed and tries to represent customers’ interests.  The head of this association,  Ismail Bikelenge, says people in the electricity company are profiting from its current billing system.

    He says SNEL is billing people for electricity they never used, whereas in well governed countries customers only pay for what they use and they can keep track of that with a meter.

    SNEL’s management in Goma declined to be interviewed but a SNEL employee agreed to talk to VOA on condition that his name was withheld. He says the current billing system is largely guesswork.

    He says the company’s employees visit a house and they see a TV, a radio and other appliances and they imagine how much power the household uses.  He says it is an imaginary bill, so to speak..

    He says SNEL pays employees only $80 a month, out of which they may have feed and pay school fees for five to eight children, so there is a limit to how well they work.

    As for the possibility of installing meters, he said that SNEL’s management in Goma had asked the head office in Kinshasa to send them meters.

    He says they had asked but the request had been shelved, without a response. He thought there was a lack of will. He says that, even if today the management decided that the electricity bills had to be reduced, who would accept that, because everyone in the Congo has to look out for their children’s and their families’ interests first?

    Installing meters does impose extra costs for the customers. In Rwanda, it costs the equivalent of $100 to install an electricity meter, plus nearly a dollar a month in insurance costs in case the meter breaks down. And, those are costs that every customer has to pay, so some poor people have been excluded.

    Nevertheless, access to the national grid in Rwanda has more than doubled since 2009 and is now at around 15 percent, compared with Congo where it is still only around seven percent and the outages are getting worse.

    Samson Ndako said that in the Congo SNEL has been selling its meters to customers for about $120.

    But then they ask for extra costs on top of that, he says. They will say 'you have to buy this and that' and although your house has been properly wired, they will say 'it has not been wired properly, we’ll have to redo it.' And, when the customer refuses and says he would rather pay the flat rate.

    SNEL’s official explanation for the outages in Goma is that the hydroelectric dam at Ruzizi, which supplies the city, has insufficient capacity. The SNEL employee that VOA interviewed said the real problems are poor maintenance of the transmission network, illegal connections and inefficient distribution, which more use of meters could help remedy.

    You May Like

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    First Human Head Transplant Planned for 2017

    Italian neurosurgeon, assisted by team of 100 medical staff, to perform 36-hour surgery on Russian man with debilitating muscle-wasting disease

    Biden Urges Global Focus on Cancer as a 'Constant Emergency'

    At Vatican conference on regenerative medicine, Vice president notes that cancer kills more than 3,000 people each day in US alone

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora