Having access to electricity is considered to be one of the most important services in fighting poverty and improving the welfare of citizens. And currently, poverty is the greatest challenge prevailing in the rural areas of Zambia. The rampant power outages caused by load shedding are affecting the poorest of the poor the most.
The electricity outages are making it difficult for small businesses to advance. In Zambia the outages take about 10 hours a day, you can imagine how this takes a big knock on the economy of the country. Load shedding is a real problem in the developing and emerging businesses and make it difficult for many small businesses like farmers to run their daily businesses effectively. Farm produce such as poultry and other perishable goods go to waste due to not being refrigerated for extended period of time.
Matthew Banda – a young entrepreneur based in kabwe district of the central part of Zambia, said his business has been doing badly recently due to the load shedding crisis.
I am a poultry farmer and I have been losing a lot of my produce due to not having electricity for hours every day, said Matthew Banda.
He continued to explain how this power outages are putting a toll on his business.
“I have had to throw away huge amounts of chicken, because the meat got spoiled due to not being refrigerated, this has put a strain on my business,” he said.
He said he doesn’t have enough funds to buy solar or genset to sustain his business hence he’s been considering getting a loan. However, it is not easy to get a loan with flexible payment term or interest rates.
Mathew thinks if the government and private sector can try to reduce the hours that load shedding takes, things would be a bit better. He is also considering venturing into a different business, but unfortunately, most of the businesses survive on electricity.
Beatrice, also from Kabwe, is into hair salon business and has voiced out the same frustrations as Matthew. Beatrice started her hair salon business in 2014 when she dropped out of school at grade 9. She dropped out of school due to lack of finances to further her education. The business has been her only source of income ever since. She does not only support herself, but her entire family too.
She said just like many other entrepreneurs, her business also took a knock due to load-shedding.
The business was going on well until this load shedding issue began, I rarely have clients,” said Beatrice.
She said most days she doesn’t work at all as most of her equipment, like hair dryers and curlers operate through electricity. As a result, she ends up losing business to much established salons that have alternatives to keep their businesses running even during load-shedding.
Beatrice said if the government or those who are in power, could help with buying solar systems for young business owners and entrepreneurs, things would be better.
Most of factories, which are the ones that provide employment for most of the residents of Kabwe have closed down due to the crisis of load shedding. With the high rate of unemployment in Kabwe, many people have resorted to being self-employed but load shedding is standing in their way of empowering themselves.
This is a crisis that needs a solution urgently. Businesses are not doing well, employment rate keeps on rising. The poorest of the poor keep on being poor.
Mathew said he thinks the current government failed the citizens. The local leaders don’t hear the cry of the community either. No one is coming up with a solution. The future looks bleak.
-By Febby Nangama,
Youth Champion, Zambia
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