Major power outage hits Kenya


(Posted 30th April 2014)

Most parts of Kenya with the exception of areas in the West of the country were by early evening still out of power after a major breakdown triggered a near nationwide outage yesterday early afternoon.

This however is not the first such large scale breakdown and local outages are said to be legion in Kenya now with the acronym KPLC for Kenya Power and Lighting Company habitually translated into Kenya Paraffin, Lamps and Candles, showing the deep disaffection of Kenyans with their main electricity utility company.

High tariffs in addition to such breakdowns have incensed the public and demonstrations are now taking the anger to the streets while the social media timelines are overflowing with acid comments about the low performance levels of Kenya Power. While hotels in the affected areas, as well as leading restaurants, were able to switch to back up power through inverters or generators, most Kenyan households were starting the evening in the dark or with candle light. ‘It is true we are running our generators right now. When we do that for longer periods of time it is very expensive because there is no concession on the fuel taxes for diesel consumed in such machines’ communicated a regular source. Other businesses had to shut down for lack of electricity and should the outage continue into the night will security concerns come to the forefront: ‘Thieves might use the situation to break into houses and other commercial premises and I can only hope our police is gearing up to put boots on the ground to patrol critical neighbourhoods and not let us get insult on top of injury’.

Electricity infrastructure across much of Eastern Africa is often suffering breakdowns as a result of aged networks, storm damages and slow repairs and maintenance gone AWOL costing the private sector a fortune in productivity losses. All member states of the East African Community have in principle agreed that the sector needs major investments but may be less agreeable when it comes to providing preferential funding which would be needed to encourage fresh investments and perhaps trigger a de-monopolization of the sector by allowing new concessioners take over section of the networks and return then into a state of the art power distribution system. Meanwhile though do incidents like yesterday continue to dent the reputation and image of the countries in the region and may result in investors seeking out other parts of the world where utilities work on a more reliable basis. Watch this space for regular and breaking news stories from across Eastern Africa.

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