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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs