16 April 2012

Ghana: Frequent Power Outages - Blame Past and Present Governments


The recent spate of power outages in the country has created anger, frustration and much debate as to the nature of these power outages.

In the heat of this frustration and anger the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has come in for much criticism in its inability to deliver power to the country.

Whilst the ECG has that responsibility to generate electricity for commercial and residential use, in my view, they are not entirely to blame for the current crisis.

If anyone is to be blamed, I blame governments of Ghana after 1966 for failing in their collective responsibility to plan effectively and strategize for electricity provision and we the Ghanaian consumer.

This article will seek to explain why this is the case and to offer solutions to the problem.

A great African named Malcolm X once said "of all of our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research."

This means that in order to have an understanding and appreciation of the current electricity crisis facing the country, one needs to go back into history to identify the genesis of the problem.

Legendary Foresight

Through legendary foresight and vision, Ghana's first president, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, understood that electricity and its supply were crucial to Ghana's industrial development and nation building.

By the way the concept of electricity came out of Africa with Black scientists from Ancient Ethiopia and Ancient Egypt pioneering this process.

In more contemporary times, Black scientists like Louis Latimer and Granville T. Woods were at the forefront of developing the technology in electricity to what it is today.

So it is a tragedy that electricity which came from the mind of the Black man of antiquity is something that the Black man of today especially in Afrika is struggling to grapple with.

Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who understood the importance of electricity to national and industrial development, initiated a feasibility study into the supply of electricity for commercial and domestic use.

The result(s) of this feasibility study was the construction of the Akosombo Dam and the framework for the subsequent development of the Bui Dam.

At the time, the construction of the Akosombo Dam was a grand edifice that had never been conceived in modern day Africa.

The purpose of the Akosombo Dam was two-fold. First, its construction was to aid in Ghana's rapid industrial development by providing energy to the numerous factories that were being built.

Secondly, it was to supply electricity to Ghana's growing population and also as an income generator by exporting electricity to other West African states to help in their development.

In January 1966, the Akosombo Dam was officially inaugurated by President Kwame Nkrumah, meeting both commercial and domestic needs.

Indeed, the Akosombo Dam generated much power that Ghana became a net exporter of electricity to other West African states.

The Akosombo Dam was constructed in such a way that the only way power outages could occur would be if the huge barges that powered the dam were not properly maintained.

Industrial Development

Dr Nkrumah had the great ability to plan ahead. As such he recognised that industrial development would continue to expand and that the nation's population would also continue to grow.

This implied that the Akosombo Dam alone would NOT be sufficient enough to meet the future energy demands of the nation.

This was the primary reason for laying down the framework for the development and subsequent construction of the Bui Dam.

Sadly, after the overthrow of Dr Nkrumah in 1966, the development and construction of the Bui Dam was put on hold.

It is only in 2007/2008 that with the realisation of future power demands that the concept of the Bui Dam was resurrected with its construction expected to be completed in 2013.

So in essence the construction of the Bui Dam is 50 years to late and this in part explains the nature of the precarious power supply in the country.

If Dr Nkrumah had not been overthrown, the Bui Dam would have been completed many years ago, complementing the Akosombo Dam in supplying electricity to Ghana's expanding industrial drive and its growing population.

Subsequent governments' failed to recognize the above and were devoid of ideas of improving the supply of electricity to the country.

Another reason for the precarious nature of electricity supply is the poor maintenance of the barges of the Akosombo Dam.

The huge barges of the Akosombo Dam are what powers the whole edifice and generates/supplies energy to the power stations that feed the national grid.

Years of neglect meant that the capacity of the barges to function at its optimum level was not realised, hence problems with power generation and power supply.

It is this realisation that enabled the last New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration to commission an American company called Balkan Energy to repair the damaged barges.

Balkan Energy were advanced millions of US Dollars in order to ensure that the rehabilitation of the barges were completed.

However, Balkan Energy did not fulfill their part of the contract and failed to repair the barges.

It is the failure to repair the barges of the Akosombo Dam that has compounded Ghana's energy needs.

The failure of Balkan Energy to deliver is totally unacceptable and demonstrates a lack of effective leadership during the latter part of NPP administration by not being assertive enough with Balkan Energy and insisting that they complete the job which had been assigned to them.

Perhaps the most fundamental reason for the power outages is the attitude of some Ghanaian consumers of electricity.

Anas' investigation

This has been proven by the ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas' investigation into the corrupt activities of perpetrated by some staff of the ECG.

What Anas' investigation revealed is that due to the unscrupulous nature of some Ghanaian consumers of electricity, the ECG is owed a colossal amount of about US$300 million.

It is estimated that the ECG needs around US$700 million to improve the system.

Well if we were all law-abiding citizens and God fearing people like many of us claim to be, we should ensure that the ECG gets all of the money owed it to enable it perform its duties.

Anas' investigations revealed at the time some very well known and established companies operating in Ghana including ECOBANK Ghana, Vienna City, Tema Steel, Movenpick Hotel, Alisha Hotel, Frankies and Irani Brothers owed the ECG huge sums of money.

Also it was uncovered that there were some very high profile individuals and even state institutions that owe the ECG huge amounts of money for failing to settle their electricity bills.

In advanced countries failure to pay one's electricity bill would result in legal action being taken and/or a severe fine, showing that in Ghana our legal instruments leave a lot to be desired.

Again Anas' investigations revealed numerous Ghanaians cheating the ECG, the government of Ghana and you and me by illegally connecting electricity to their premises without any remorse.

Again it was revealed that some staff of the ECG illegally sell electricity meters to consumers and pocket the cash, thus depriving ECG of much needed revenue.


What Anas' ground breaking documentary highlights is that some individuals, state institutions and corporate entities are willingly and knowingly getting electricity without paying for it and conniving with some corrupt ECG staff to conceal their nefarious deeds.

This is robbing not only the state but the ECG which desperately needs the money in order to improve the quality of electricity that is currently being supplied.

It is also depriving law abiding Ghanaians of constant and reliable electricity supply. The supply of electricity is a key component in the country's national development. Without it Ghana is not going to achieve the industrialization it aspires to.

Electricity is also important to the citizenry as it enables them to carry out functions like cooking, cleaning, washing, doing homework etc. with peace of mind.

As a country it is totally unacceptable and unchristian for some to cheat the system by avoiding payment and/or resorting to unscrupulous means to get free electricity.

If we are serious in wanting to see Ghana develop into a first world economy, we must ALL play our part as patriotic and responsible citizens by doing the right thing.

Doing the right thing in this instance is paying your electricity bills on time and stopping the practice of illegal electricity connections. In the next edition we will look at solar energy as a means to permanently solving our energy crisis.

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