Africa Nigeria’s poor power supply creates novel business

Nigeria’s poor power supply creates novel business

Nigereria President elect Mohammed Buhari
Nigereria President elect Mohammed Buhari

 (AA) – With as little as $100 in startup capital, many jobless Nigerians are setting up telephone-charging centers – a lucrative business thanks to the country’s epileptic power supply, which appears to have resisted all attempts at repair.

Electricity is rationed in most parts of Nigeria, with the upper and middle classes often relying on privately-generated power.

Even with rationed electricity, seldom does any part of the country enjoy a full six hours of uninterrupted power each day. In some places, people can go for days without any electricity.

At the nation’s public bus stations and markets, people can be seen charging their phone batteries at phone-charging centers for no less than 50 naira (roughly $0.25) per battery.

“All I needed to start this business was a small power generating set, multiple-phase extension wire and some cables to connect them,” Akamo Rashidi, an undergraduate who is helping himself through school, told Anadolu Agency in Lagos.

Rashidi makes an average of 1,500 naira (roughly $7.60) per day – a good sum for Nigeria, where more than 70 percent of the people are said to live on less than $1 a day.

On May 1, government officials said Nigeria’s total electricity generation stood at only 2,800 megawatts, as the public grapples with an intense heat wave owing to rising summer temperatures.

“As of April 3… we were able to generate about 4,500 megawatts on the grid, but, as of this morning, we had fallen to about 2,800 megawatts,” said Godknows Igali, permanent secretary at the Power Ministry.

“You can see how much power we have lost as a result of vandalism. That’s why the power supply has become very bad all over the country, because these strange Nigerians who continue to deliberately blow up our gas pipelines,” he added.

The country hopes to be able to produce 40,000 megawatts by 2020, the minimum needed to guarantee a stable power supply for its import-dependent economy.

This target will see the country invest a whopping $35 billion in the electricity sector.

With the country bogged down by widespread corruption and a lack of political will and vital infrastructure, the future looks bleak for Africa’s largest economy.

There have been numerous reports of corruption in the power industry, with $16 billion earmarked for the sector allegedly vanishing during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo alone.

Repeated corruption probes in this regard have failed to produce any results.

Ironically, this has translated into good business for battery chargers and others who have learned to profit from the nation’s chronically poor power supply.

“All people want is to charge their phone battery for five or ten minutes so as to be able to make or receive urgent calls,” said Rashidi, the battery charger.

Rasaq Olawale, a mechanical engineer, is a regular customer at the local battery-charging centers.

“I have three phones but I hardly have any power supply when I get home at night,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“So this is where I charge my phone batteries. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry, I just ask them to help me charge the batteries a bit so I can take calls,” Olawale explained.

“I also charge the battery when I get home if I have any fuel in my power generating set,” he noted.

“But this is often not enough, because I get home late. By 10pm, I have to switch off the generator because of residential rules to this effect,” said the engineer.

“So this is my best bet,” he added, joining a line of people waiting to charge their phones at a bus station in Iyana Ipaja, a Lagos suburb.

Ikenna Abana owns a battery-charging business in Gbagi market in Ibadan, the regional capital of Oyo State and the country’s third most populous metropolitan area.

He started his business after failing to find a job following his college graduation.

“An uncle pointed me to the business,” Abana told Anadolu Agency. “He bought the generator for me and other little things I needed.”

“The business has kept me going,” he said, smiling.

Abana makes between 1,500 naira (roughly $7.60) and 2,000 naira (roughly $10) each day.

“I now have a [phone-charging] center on the campus of the Polytechnic Ibadan, my former school, where I make money from students who need to charge their phones,” he added.

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