Blackouts threaten livelihoods

Post was last updated: September 14, 2016

While Malawi’s job market cannot absorb all the people who have undergone formal training, persistent power outages are now threatening the survival of people who set up their own businesses to survive.

A barber in Ndirande Township, Evance Muheziwa, said with the frequent power outages, business has ground to a standstill. He said during the day, power is only available for less than three hours.

“My customers are low income earners who cannot drive at night to come for a haircut. The three hours when we have power, is only enough to provide services to a handful of people,” said Muheziwa.

He said at a fee of K200 per haircut, he only makes K1,000 per day or less.

“I rent the room which I am using at K10,000 and from what I am earning these days, I cannot manage to support my family and my business. My plea to Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) is that they should find a solution to these power problems so that we atleast remain in business,” said Muheziwa.

Mashuhuri Engineering is another company that is heavily hit by the blackouts.

The company’s proprietor, Steven Manda, said frequent blackouts have cost the company a lot of business.

At most, he said power supply is only available to them between three to four hours per day.

“With the nature of our job, we cannot manage to satisfy customer demand. This has resulted in customers abandoning us for other alternatives. I am not even sure where I will get the money to pay my workers this month.”

Another producer plying his trade at ginnery corner said the blackouts have cut their production capacity to almost zero as their production system is 100 percent dependent on Escom energy.

The individual, who asked not to be named, said idle time has reached alarming levels such that the company is now forced to send back employees but still pay them salaries at the end of the month.

“This forces us to pay for non-productive man hours hence losses. Additionally, we are also losing customers as they cannot wait, this has also affected our performance index on the market,” said the source.

He also anticipates that the problem, which has forced many people to switch to diesel generators, will result in further degradation of the environment.

“If Blackouts are to be addressed, it needs concerted effort including the law makers to change the current statutes to accommodate renewable energy suppliers. We have heard that Investors are just waiting in the wings, issues like pricing and statutes should not delay the investment which would bail out the sick companies on death bed.”

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