In Nigeria, as in many sub-Saharan African countries, getting energy to both rural and urban areas is a great challenge. Analysts say that given Nigeria’s immense resources, the energy industry is not very efficient in meeting the needs of its customers.Civilian leaders since the end of the military dictatorship in 1999 have promised changes in the energy sector but failed to deal decisively with persistent power problems. So power cuts continue to affect businesses and homes.
Nigeria’s power problems are caused by institutional and governance failures that must be dealt with seriously by the country’s next president, according to Amara Nwankpa, the head of Light Up Nigeria, a youth-led movement pressing for a steady flow of electric power to Nigerian homes and businesses.
Energy and unemployment
Nwankpa says erratic energy service has hurt the standard of living in Nigeria, especially for the youth, “who are essentially struggling to make a living.”
Unemployment is high among the country’s millions of youth. Many who do not find work with the government are inclined to go into business and become small entrepreneurs, says Nwakpa, but energy costs make it hard for young people to start businesses of their own.
“If you tried starting a business in Nigeria, the biggest cost you would face would be energy,” said Nwanka, adding that much of the expense goes to replacement energy sources like generators, including the cost of maintaining them.
Own the problem
Analysts say Nigeria’s persistent energy problems undermine its potential to move from an agro-based economy to an industrialized one. So in its advocacy work, Light Up Nigeria targets everyone from policymakers to business leaders.
“The power sector has got a lot of stakeholders,” he said. “The consumers are part of the [power] eco-system, but the government plays a key role in terms of putting the agenda together.”
But Nwankpa insists that the average Nigerian, “who is going to be around for the next 20 to 30 years, should own this problem, believe it’s our problem [and understand that] it’s our responsibility to make sure that there is a solution for it,” he says.