By Boris Esono Nwenfor
For the past weeks, businesses in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde has been on a standstill as an unprecedented lack of electricity has engulfed the city.
The power supply disappeared on August 4th, the day a fire destroyed the city’s main power station and much of the equipment, leaving more than one million people without electricity. Authorities have not identified the cause of the fire although they refuted newspaper reports of sabotage.
The government has ordered the electric company, ENEO, to restore power within seven days but the company says it needs at least three months to repair equipment destroyed in the fire.
The sound of generator usually heard in less developed parts of the country usually hit by frequent power outages is today being heard constantly in the capital city-a situation which many have become familiar within recent days.
Henry Ndaa, manager of Divine Finance, a bank in Yaounde, now relies on the generator to keep the lights on and computers running. But this source of power is unreliable, because at times fuel stations cannot supply enough gasoline to keep it going. “We cannot adequately operate. We use the generator, and it goes off and it is weighing negatively on us and our customers. Our members keep complaining,” he told VOA.
The power outage has paralyzed businesses, crippled hospitals, affected the water supply and forced people to dispose of huge quantities of perishable goods. Radio and TV stations cannot have regular broadcasts.
According to Godlove Ndifontah, a researcher, even the internet supply is no longer regular. “It is horrible. I am on my machine almost 24 on 24 [every day], preparing my projects and responding to mails from my partners. [Now] we have to go to where there are generators to pay 500 francs ($510) to charge your machine or to charge your phone per hour.”
Cameroon’s Minister of water and energy resources, Gaston Eloundou Essomba, says the government is taking steps to replace all the damaged equipment and will import parts from abroad as needed.
The Minister of Communication, and Government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi in an outing said power is being rationed and urged people in neighborhoods without electricity to be patient. “The government wishes to laud the patience, understanding, and civic sense showcased by the inhabitants of the capital city. Instructions have been given to ENEO to provide a general calendar of the rationing of supply to the public of the city of Yaounde,” he said.