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Month: January 2013

ECG: Tale of an Energy Monopoly

Posted in Uncategorized

If you’re a Ghanaian then chances are you’ve heard these phrases before:

  • Electricity Come and Go
  • Either Candle or Generator
  • Energy Crisis of Ghana
  • Ela-TDC (yes it’s its own political party and won -0.05% of the Ghanaian populace over)
  • Dumso Dumso

Here’s the thing.  Someone let their pet monkey loose in the Electricity Corporation of Ghana. This is not a joke.  There’s someone who lets their monkey onto the premises and this little bugger keeps messing with the switches.  How else could you possibly explain the disco day and night fever that has gripped the Nation?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about  POWER OUTAGES!

I live in a part of Accra, where the electricity is virtually always out. At least four days a week, we experience some sort of maintenance or cable fault. A few years ago, they claimed we had a busted transformer and During Christmas week, we were out for five days straight.

It’s become normal for Ghanaian homes to have backup generators now.  Those things come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  I’ve got a medium sized one which handles lights and a few TVs but definitely not my freezers. Some homes have humongous ones so they can continue to use their heaters, air conditions etc but what is important to note about all types of generator users is, it’s an additional cost to a home or business user. If I pay GHC150 a month for electricity and about GHC 80 for water (meanwhile I haven’t had water in over 6 months. That’s a post for another day) oh and tack on about GHC 100 for Internet (includes what I tack on to my phone and iPad) well, that’s over GHC300 from my meager salary going into utilities. When you throw in the cost of maintaining a car, fueling it and clothing….I pity the average Ghanaian’s pocket.

The point I’m trying to make is, what we’re paying for utilities is bad enough without having to tag on additional costs for fueling our generators. My genset will go for 8 hours on about GHC20 of petrol but egads! What of the poor sods who invest in larger ones? How much extra do they have to pay in addition to the about GHC400 that ECG collects from them monthly?

Last year, the entire country had their electricity rationed. Every couple of days, an area would go off for about 12 hours and this went on for months. The nation dubbed it “Dumso Dumso” which loosely translates into “switch on, switch off”. It became a bone of contention during the just ended elections, with people seemingly forgetting that such situations occurred even during the previous administration.

Well, all this “dumso dumso” nonsense was right down my alley. My area (near Kwabenya) is used to constant power outages and we actually welcome the scheduled outages.  When I know I’m to go off at 6am, I make sure to iron and prep everything and head out of the house early. And if I know I’m going off at 6pm, then I make sure to charge my phone and laptop in town and grab some candles so I can read a bit before bed.

Our problem is with the unscheduled outages, like what we’re experiencing now. Our power went out on Friday night. I’m typing this up on my IPad which is quickly draining of power at 8 am on Sunday, January 20. The problem? Supposedly a high tension cable fault somewhere in Kwabenya. We were promised we’d get out power back yesterday but as of this morning, my kontonmire with mutton and smoked mackerel is going bad. My dogs will no doubt be feasting on the large pot I made before the day is done. THIS is the real “dumso dumso”.  This is a real case of either candle or generator.

Calls to ECG (who have got really nice customer service agents but still haven’t got the solution bit down pat) only serve to infuriate me further.  “Oh have you reported the fault?” “Yes Madam, we did say 3pm but our engineers are still in the field and do not have an idea when they will be done.” “Please Madam, what’s an ETA?”

This morning, after being asked again whether or not I’d made a report and if it was my whole area that was off, I blew up. I’m an extremely impatient person and it doesn’t take long to get me to let loose the hounds of hell. “This is unacceptable” I said, ” I just told you my power has been out since Friday and you act as though you do not know about the problem. Does your system not tell you Kwabenya has been off since then?” The poor agent had to hush up and listen while I told him, “add this to the new report. Tell your people that if they were another service like my ISP, I would have switched to someone else by now. You people have a monopoly on electricity in this country or else you’d give us value for money.  How can you keep taking us out for 3, 4, 5 days and expect us to accept it? My food is going bad! Will you pay for it?”

Now I’m supposed to call in a few more minutes to see if the faults men have given a new estimated time for power to be restored.

Thing is, if we had multiple power companies, which really should be the case then perhaps we’d have better service. I don’t believe that state enterprises should be sold to private bodies (as in the case of Ghana Telecom to Vodafone). I believe that private institutions should give healthy competition to government bodies. We should have a choice. I should be able to make the choice to go off the national grid, if I want.  Perhaps the government should subsidize alternate energy sources for Ghanaians who want to go green.  I would invest in an affordable solar unit for my home and much as my folks hate the idea of biogas, I sure as heck would use my home sewage to power my house (they will NOT use it to cook no matter what I say).

Point I’m making is, if the government knows that Gridco, ECG etc cannot handle the pressure of powering up the nation (and yet they sell power to other countries) then they should make it easier for communities and individuals to generate their own power. We’re sick of all of this.

The next election, I am voting for whoever can give me uninterrupted power supply. Do you hear that, Hassan Ayariga? Promise me “domesticated” electricity and you will have my vote.

For now, I’m entreating whoever that monkey belongs to, keep that bugger under lock and key. He’s been playing havoc for far too long.

~Daixy~

Accra: Village, Slum or City?

Woke up this morning to see this article floating about on twitter. In this article, Eonline reporter  Alyssa Toomey writes, “The handsome boy-banders visited the impoverished village of Accra and took to Twitter to detail their eye-opening experience.”
From what I can surmise, Comic Relief (responsible for Red Nose Day)  brought One Direction to Accra. Lord knows which parts of Accra they sent them to, but hey, they saw a slum or two.
This is what one member had to say about his trip:
https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/0/?ui=2&ik=179c22f4fa&view=att&th=13c42b9e2363e27e&attid=0.1&disp=inline&realattid=1424311331919495168-1&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P_VP_Hzw4NW2i-th9UwWnUb&sadet=1358329173800&sads=xWeM9eT46wLS5CbRfyeOYv0bni0
Hey Niall, thanks for visiting my country (even though you only visited Accra) and thanks for wanting to help those who are poverty stricken but here’s some thing you need to wise up to. Poverty is everywhere, even in your beloved United Kingdom. How is it that you managed not to notice that “poverty is real” before you visited my “impoverished village of Accra”?

In response to the article and the tweets from Niall Horan, GH twitter had a field day. Aside from tweets like mine which expressed outrage, a lot took to humour to voice their displeasure.

This one from Wanlov the Kubolor had me laughing my butt off!

 
I can’t blame One Direction.  They’re kids, really and hey, I can understand to some degree how in all the excitement, the band members could have tweeted like they did.  You can never see poverty and walk away untouched.  You’d have to be a cold bastard for that.

My beef is with the article on Eonline and thus, with  Alyssa Toomey. Ms. Toomey apparently failed to do her research before posting the article.  Even worse, the article either did not go through an editor, or her editor was an ignoramus. Accra is not an “impoverished village”. So I asked Niall, One Direction and Eonline to please tell Alyssa that Accra is not a village.  None of them bothered responding but that’s to be expected.  I tweeted at Alyssa herself asking her to edit the article and deliver an apology but received no response. I didn’t really expect otherwise.

While others rant on about whether or not Accra is a “modern city” and complain about the “dirt” etc, I would like to make myself very clear.

A village is defined by my common dictionary to be:

  1. A group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area.
  2. A self-contained district or community within a town or city, regarded as having features characteristic of village life.

Accra is very much an urban area, no matter what people choose to say about it. It is larger than a town. Perhaps the slum that was visited could be described as a village but my Capital City of Accra truly fails to meet the description of a village.  It is a CITY! I do not understand why the word village has come to mean in some people’s minds, “a dirty group of mud houses with animals roaming freely about”. Please! Not every village comes with complimentary death and squalor. Accra has a huge problem with sanitation and we need to get our people to stop throwing their crap in the street but just cuz some so called “villagers” have relocated to Accra from the rural areas etc does not mean it has become a village.

Every city the world over has its share of poverty. I don’t really care about the author tagging Accra as impoverished.  Hey, if she thinks hotels like Movenpick Ambassador and La Palm Royal are signs of impoverishment, that’s her problem. I can take her behind Dekalb in the Bronx or walk her through Harlem and show her some poor people. Would she like to call those places villages too? Even in Memphis, I saw squalor.The abject poverty I have witnessed will not let me attempt to fool anyone that we do not indeed have impoverished sections (and a lot of them) in Accra.

My problem is with western media always needing to portray Africa as a poverty ridden “country”. They blatantly refuse to show the progress we’re making. Growing up, I studied geography and read a lot so I knew most of the states of America and of course, that the Britain was a teeny weeny Island etc. It was all drummed into my head, whether I wanted to know it or not.  So how come Western kids do not know that Africa is a continent? How could Alyssa Toomey not have checked facts on Ghana and thus not know that Accra was our Capital city?

Later on in the day, I discovered that the article had been edited and the insulting phrase taken out. I feel better, knowing that at least one more person out there will think twice before writing about my homeland in a derogatory manner.  I don’t care if you tell the truth about my country.  Talk about the poverty all you like (but talk about yours too and maintain the balance) but please do not make the mistake of belittling us.

To celebs like One Direction who love to do charity work, kudos. Your hard work is really appreciated but please for the love of all things Holy, do your homework. Don’t mar the good work you do with ignorant comments.

My final two cents is meant for all Ghanaians. Can we fix up our city? Please? Accra is a health hazard and it’s time we cleaned it up. We have town and country planning.  Why are their codes being ignored? Why are people dumping rubbish wherever they feel like? And what do we do about the mass exodus of people from rural areas to our urban centres? How long has that Slum at Korle Gono been in existence and what has been done to take care of it?

Until we make strides to improve things and better brand our nation, we will forever have ignorant impressions running around about this country and the rest of Africa. Let’s work together to paint a better picture of our homeland.  It’s the only one we have! 

God Bless Ghana!

~Daixy~