News / Africa

Power Cuts Hurt Uganda Businesses

Ugandan women chat in a shop lit by a paraffin lamp in the capital Kampala (file photo)
Ugandan women chat in a shop lit by a paraffin lamp in the capital Kampala (file photo)

Extended power cuts are on the rise in Uganda, with entire neighborhoods being plunged into darkness for days on end. Over the past month, an acute power deficit has led to extended electricity cuts across the country.  Some homes, businesses and even hospitals are going without power for days at a time.

In the past week, frustrated shopkeepers in central Kampala blockaded roads and burned tires in protest.  Some said they had been without electricity for four days, and that the cuts were crippling their businesses.

A woman who runs a printing business in the capital says she has lost a lot of money over the past several weeks.

“Last week we had power for just two days.  It’s getting worse every day," she complained.  "I am about to make redundant two members of staff, because there is no work.  You lose customers, because every time they come in there’s no power.  So we’ve lost customers.  We don’t know where they do their printing.”

But, she adds, it is not just a question of losing customers.  She says that the darkened streets and noisy generators have also been attracting thieves, who steal merchandise and rob pedestrians.

“When there’s so much noise they break into shops," she notes.  "People cannot do business after 6:00 p.m., because the thieves are taking advantage.  They used to open at six in the morning, but now the shopkeepers, they open shops around eight, because they can no longer walk to their workplace early enough because of the risk in the darkness.”

These extended power cuts are known as “load-shedding," which means cutting power to parts of the grid when there is not enough electricity to go around.  The current power deficit is more than 100 megawatts a day.

Part of the problem is that several power plants have been shut down because the Ugandan government has failed to pay millions of dollars worth of bills.  But recently damaged equipment has made the situation worse.

Uganda’s main energy distributor, Umeme, says the situation is not likely to improve in the near future.   

“A fault occurred which caused a fire that damaged equipment at the substation," said Umeme spokeswoman Florence Nsubuga.  "The equipment that was damaged cannot be replaced easily.  The works require extensive input, whereby just unbundling the equipment would take some time.”

Uganda’s energy problem goes even deeper.  Even with functioning equipment, Umeme is unable to meet the country’s needs.  A government study earlier this year found that energy demand will most likely triple in the coming decade.

In order to bridge this energy gap, the Ugandan government has been focusing on developing hydroelectricity.  Two dam projects - the Karuma Dam and the Bujagali Dam - are slated to begin operation in the next few years.

Kapil Kapoor, Uganda Country Manager for the World Bank, says this is where revenues from the country’s newfound oil reserves will most likely be invested.

“One of the biggest investments that they see happening in the next four or five years is the Karuma dam, which has possibly a capacity of six, seven hundred megawatts," explained Kapoor. "So what they would like to see is earnings for three or four years from oil all being parked into a fund, which will go to finance Karuma dam.”

Kapoor says that all the royalties the Ugandan government has earned so far from foreign oil companies - around $400 million - have been earmarked for future investment in the energy sector.

The Bujagali Dam is expected to be operational next year, supplying Uganda with up to 250 megawatts more power - enough to cover the current deficit.  But until then, Ugandan businesses will be left struggling to make ends meet with the little power they have.

You May Like

Map Shows Every US School Shooting Since 2013

There have been at least 150 school shootings in the United States since 2013, an average of nearly one per week More

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs