apology for power outages: a gesture of taking responsibility
reports stated that while presenting his office’s ten-month performance report
to the House of People’s Representatives in May, 2014, the Minister of
Industry, Ahmed Abitew, stated that despite the extensive effort made to
realize the ambitious plan of the Growth and Transformation (GTP) period, the
performance of the manufacturing sector in the budget year was disappointing.
to the minister, the reports went on to say, though it was planned to secure
USD 825.05 million in the first 10 months of the budget year from the
manufacturing sector, the actual performance registered only 324.3 million
birr, which amounts to a mere 39.3 percent of the target.
the ministry’s report recalled that the industrial sector was identified as one
of the pillars of the GTP. According to the GTP, over USD 1.5 billion was
expected from the manufacturing sector, mainly USD one billion from the textile
sector, USD 49.5 million from the leather and hide sector and USD 320 million
from the food, beverages and pharmaceuticals sectors.”
reports stated that the Minister cited a number of reasons for the poor
performance of the sector, power cuts being one of them. “The frequent electric
power cuts and fluctuations were mentioned as critical problems which have
caused a serious challenge for the poor performance of the sector. According to
the minister, in February a total of 204 cases of power cuts were registered
among eight textile factories and as a result an estimated 106 working hours
from wastage of production time, devastating impacts on electronic equipment
that disrupt production and productivity occurred. The minister further
indicated that although discussions have been conducted with the power company
repeatedly, this has borne no fruit. He added that four leather factories
around Modjo suffered similar problems related to power cuts.”
power cuts are not the only culprit cited in the poor performance of the
industrial sector, the huge role they have played in it has been vividly
represented by the above media report. Further investigation into the impact of
power cuts and fluctuations across various economic sectors would easily corroborate
the strain these technical inefficiencies have on the entire development of the
an individual and community level, power cuts and fluctuations result in
economic, health and security hazards. Besides rendering electrical equipments
useless, power cuts and fluctuations considerably diminish the working hours of
small businesses and individuals eroding their sustainability. With a
considerable number of power cuts, small businesses find it hard to pay rent,
salary of employees and expand their businesses. Individuals and families, on
the other hand, would be subjected to additional energy and other costs as a
result of power cuts. Power cuts also infringe on quality of life.
cuts in health facilities can have minor to fatal health hazards. The use of
electronic health machines is hampered by power cuts and fluctuations, making
it harder for medical personnel to save lives. At individual level, alternative
energy sources such as biomass or charcoal for cooking purposes could prove to
be bad for health besides the environmental negative impact their promote.
cuts also pose security threats on both businesses and households as those with
criminal intent find it easy to manipulate the situation. Besides using the
dark, criminals find it easy to maneuver security breaches as electronic
security materials would be out of use during power outages.
power cuts and fluctuations are still an integral part of life in Ethiopia,
businesses and individuals have been complaining about the situation. Accordingly,
Dr. Mulatu Teshome offered a public apology for the power cuts when he
addressed a joint session of the two chambers of Parliament, the House of
Peoples’ Representative (HPR) and the House of Federation (HoF), to open the
new parliamentary session on October 6, 2014.
President reportedly spoke of the institutional inefficiency of the Ethiopian
Electric Service by stating: “… [the power interruption is] caused in part by
maladministration in the institution due to pressure arising from increased
demand in major cities in connection with rapid industrialization, change in
urban way of life, as well as malfunction of power transmitting lines.”
my opinion, the President’s criticism of the relevant government office and
apology for the public was the right way of kicking the two houses of
parliament. The main reason for me to say that is the fact that we are in the
last fiscal year of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP).
the final year of the GTP, the current fiscal year deserves an extra
determination to get lagging sectors up to par. This year cannot be one of
mediocre performance and attitude. When approaching the deadline, everyone
should be vigilant enough to criticize and ensure timely repair of shortcomings
let alone the head of state. His bold moves, in my opinion, are thus
reason for me to applaud his move has to do with the need to take more
responsibility and building on the culture of creating dialogue with the public
beyond propaganda. I think the public understands what is going on in the
country in terms of witnessing the development leaps being registered.
discontent at the power cuts is pronounced with the lack of open admission of
responsibility on a governmental level. The fact that the government did not
publicly admit the shortcomings served itself adversely as the public
increasingly got frustrated over the lack of a gesture of understanding. The
President’s apology to the public and the subsequent criticism of the
responsible government office has, therefore, mended hard feelings and restored
understanding between the public and the government.
proper measures of admitting responsibility and creating dialogue with the
public, year round power interruptions could be taken as a sign of impunity in
governmental offices. After all, for the power cuts to recur, somebody must be
not doing their jobs right. Identifying the responsible body for the social
content and taking corrective measures is, with no doubt, the right step to
take for the government as it builds on its popular legitimacy.
lack of communication on the part of the government also provides others with
opposing rhetoric a chance to grab the attention of the public. The lack of
admission of responsibility and explanation of the efforts being made to
mitigate the problem on the side of the government create a venue for those
with opposing rhetoric to provide the public with inaccurate information around
which they build on their propaganda.
President’s bold move to apologize to the public and direct criticism at the
responsible government office has, therefore, restored the bridge of dialogue
between the public and the government on the issue. In the absence of such a
bridge a number of misunderstandings have been creeping up.
most notable of such misunderstandings has been the rhetoric that the electric
energy Ethiopia has been exporting to its neighbors is among the causes of the
power cuts. Ethiopian Electric Service said on October 6, 2014
that Ethiopia has connected its power grid with Sudan, Kenya and Djibouti and
is currently exporting 195 megawatts of electricity to Sudan (100MW), Djibouti
(35MW) and Kenya (60MW).
Rooting itself in the argument that
the energy produced in the country is short of current demands for electricity,
despite the repeated notifications of the Ethiopian Electric Service telling
the reality is otherwise, those with opposing rhetoric have spread the unfounded
claim that the exported energy should have been used to cover domestic
In an interview held a month ago
with the Reporter newspaper, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Alemayehu
Tegenu stated that the country currently generates 2268 MW of electricity. He
noted that the majority of it is coming from the hydro power plants to be
followed by electricity from wind farms. In the interview, the Minister noted
“the demand for electricity is steadily increasing but the energy that is
currently being produced can meet the local demand.” He also stated that the
current demand for electricity is 2000 MW.
The data from the highest authority
in the country concern the matter clearly show that the 195 MW export to
neighboring countries cannot disrupt electric power supply in Ethiopia. In
fact, there are a few megawatts of energy left from the national production
that can be used as a backup. The transmission and communication of these hard
facts to the public would create a clear understanding of existing conditions
narrowing the potential gap left for skeptics to exploit.
In addition to communicating the
electric power generated in the country and the current demand in the country,
publicizing the causes of the power cuts and the remedial actions being taken
by the responsible government offices also enhance understanding.
In the above mentioned interview,
the Minister noted that the energy utilization trend in the country is
changing. In the face of the change in the lifestyle of the public and the
rapidly growing demand for electric energy, he argued, most of the existing
power substations, electric distribution lines and network are old. The result,
he explained is overloaded transmission lines that are unable to accommodate
the ever increasing electric flow.
To further clarify the effect of
overloaded transmission lines, Minister Alemayehu Tegenu used a road metaphor.
“If you take a road, it has a
certain capacity of traffic accommodation. If the traffic flow is increasing
substantially there will be a traffic jam. The mobility on the road will
decline. To ease the traffic jam you need to build a new road line the Addis
Ababa ring road or shortcuts. Likewise, when the electric distribution lines
are congested you need to find a way to vent off the surplus. You have to ease
the power congestion.”
After depicting a clear picture of
why the power cuts are happening rampantly, the Minister went on to the
remedial action plans of the relevant governmental office. He explained that
the power cut mitigation project is divided into three categories – short term,
mid term and long term.
The short term plan, he stated, is
to provide instant solution in trying to avoid congestion of the distribution
lines. Accordingly, he explained that supportive electric transformers were
being installed as aging networks were also being replaced. He also noted that
they were trying to avoid connections between electric lines and trees.
The mid term plan, he explained,
included upgrading the power substations. He said that they were building new
substations and cited the new Akaki and Legetafo substations as instances.
Upgrading the substations all over the country, he further stated, make up the
long term plan.
As has been the case all along,
issues such as frequent power interruptions have a tendency of becoming
incorporated into individual and social dialogue. Not participating in that
dialogue, especially by as big an entity as a government, would render the
latter’s marginalization. Therefore, the bold move by President Dr. Mulatu
Teshome to acknowledge the problem, apologize for the shortcomings to the
public and criticize the responsible authorities was just what was needed for
the government to assume its rightful place in the social discussion.