It completely astonishes me when I say it- “tomorrow, I will have been here for 3 weeks!” I cannot express how much it does not feel that way at all, in some senses it seems we only arrived yesterday but it also feels like we’ve been here forever. I guess that’s partly because we have done so much in such a short space of time and partly because we’ve had to quickly to the lifestyle, in particular living with the very real experience of Dumsor.
Imagine only having power for two days a week. 24 hours off. 12 hours on. That is 48 hours of power a week. Just try and fathom all the things you would have to do in those precious 48 hours- it’s not enough right?! Dumsor, in the local parlance, is literally ‘lights on, lights off’. Before we got here, we were warned about the frequent power cuts but nobody warned us that it would be THIS bad. In fact only recently the president announced that the ‘timetable’ for power cuts would be the ridiculous 24 hours off and 12 hours on. I use inverted commas because you would be lucky if the timetable was actually followed, sometimes the light will come back for 2 hours, sometimes for 2 minutes, sometimes it won’t come back for 48 hours. Visiting Pakistan frequently, I am used to lights off, lights on but every time I’ve been there, it’s never been this bad.
Everyone says this is the worst year for Dumsor, having begun in 2010. The current president John Mahama vowed in the 2010 presidential election that he would solve the crisis but as I see it and hear it from the locals, little has been done to improve a dire situation. When I asked some of the counterparts why there isn’t power it seems everyone is asking the same question! They don’t understand themselves why there isn’t power as they say the country is capable but there seems to be a lack of political will coupled with dishonest or lack of answers from those in positions to act. It seems those in authority are using the following reasons to explain why dumsor is happening.
- Ghana relies heavily on hydropower to create energy. The Akosombo Dam is their main source of power but during dry season when the rainfall is low, the dam fails to make enough power and now that two of the six turbines are broken, the 4 turbines are struggling even further. HOWEVER the locals say even in rainy season, the power cuts are as frequent (they don’t think it’s a convincing reason) and ask why aren’t they fixing the two broken turbines?!
- A growing population is adding pressure to the low levels of production and the current production cannot cater to the population increase.
- Recently the agreement between Nigeria and Ghana that supplies gas from the West Africa Gas Pipeline to Ghana has come to and end. The incessant power supply challenges has resulted the Ghnaina power plants to shut down, further limiting the capability to create power. As a result of Nigeria’s failure to meet their contractual agreements they have compensated Ghana with $10 million. However this doesn’t even begin to cover the damage it is having on the country.
The consensus is that everyone is either finger pointing or confused as to what needs to be done and how to deal with the problem but this is having a major effect on the economy especially for our SME’s!
This week we have struggled with the power situation at work. When we go in, we realise there is no light and as a result production is halted, workers can’t work, they are losing out on pay and the company is simply at a standstill. Some of the companies cannot afford generators and are missing out on valuable business. Those in power do not realise how important SME’s are to the economy and their failure to solve this issue rapidly is proof of that. Lucky for Kofi and I, we live incredibly close to the mall so when there is no light at home or at the office, we head to the mall and work from there, reporting back to our business owner at the end of the day. It isn’t ideal but somehow you need to make it work. 48 hours is less than 1/3 of the week- how does anyone expect to be productive working less than 1/3 of the week?!
Unfortunately you just have to live with dumsor. One night when we had light, I managed to iron pretty much all my clothes – there is never guarantee of power and you have to charge your devices as soon as the light is back, ‘I’ll do it later’ doesn’t exist!
This week has been pretty busy for us at Asarco. We have begun to set up a new financial bookkeeping system and started planning our market research! We are excited to head out to the markets next week and talk to the customers. We also headed to a really interesting seminar about German-Ghanian relations, set up by the AGI (Association for Ghanaian Industries) where we learnt about potential financing for small industries in Ghana by German companies.
It rained on Thursday night and I LOVED IT! I was so grateful for the cool night and the cool morning that followed- although it didn’t last too long. I am really looking forward to March when the weather (fingers crossed) is supposed to be cooler due to the rainy season. It’s funny the perceptions the Ghanaian counterparts or host parents have of us, coming from the UK- I washed my clothes by hand this week and everyone was so surprised. I know we use washing machines but I am Pakistani- this stuff comes natural. Plus who remembers those Uni days you washed clothes in the sink? Haha I always did when I really needed something!
After a week of working hard, the weekend was ours to enjoy! We met up with the rest of team Ghana and had the equivalent of Nandos for lunch on Saturday (it wasn’t as great as Nandos unfortunately). Not sure Dami was too pleased…After explicitly expressing she wanted a CHICKEN burger and not a BEEF burger to the waiter about 10 times, when the food arrived so did her beef burger. I wish I had taken a picture of her face- priceless! Dami doesn’t mess around with her food! The rest of the day was spent walking around Liberation Road, seeing parliament, walking around Independence Square (trying so hard to get a team picture but to no avail) and ending up at Bola Beach behind Independence Arc, where almost everyone naturally posed as ‘The Thinker’ – it was quite nice to just sit and take it all in.
On Sunday we met up for our weekly team meeting and discussed the weeks proceedings and lunch today was Pizza. I have to admit I was really looking forward to this but unfortunately it did not quite make the cut! Sunday evening we watched the African Cup of Nations Final, despite the slow pace of the game the penalties made up for it. The crowd was going mad when Ivory Coast missed their first two penalties and Ghana’s went in… but oh the celebrations were far too premature. Unfortunately Ghana lost and the animated crowd had to walk out solemnly… I’m sure if Ghana had won, the atmosphere in the city would have been mental- now that would have been an experience!