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Power outages around Africa

Major Power Outages Around the Africa/East Africa: Interesting List Curated by an Electrical Engineering Company in Nairobi, Kenya

Widespread power outages have become a recurring issue in many African countries, significantly affecting economic activity. This underscores the urgent need for long-term solutions. As an electrical engineering company in Nairobi, Kenya, we share some of the most impactful blackouts that have struck Africa and outline potential strategies for a brighter future.

  1. Kenya, December 2023: A major power failure swept across Kenya, which left the entire country in darkness for nearly 24 hours. This blackout, the most significant in recent memory, crippled vital facilities like the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, a key transportation hub for East Africa. While this was not the first major outage for Kenya in 2023, it was the longest on record. Adding to the frustration, the cause of the blackout remains a mystery. 
  2. Tanzania, May 20, 2008 – Zanzibar, a popular tourist destination, faced a complete power outage at around 10:00 pm local time. The cause was a rupture in the undersea cable that supplies electricity from mainland Tanzania. This unexpected blackout left the entire island in darkness for a month, with power finally restored on June 18th. The disruption undoubtedly impacted residents and businesses alike, highlighting the island’s dependence on the undersea cable for its electricity needs.
  3. Uganda Electricity Crisis, 2006: A major electricity crisis gripped Uganda in 2006. Low water levels in Lake Victoria, the source of most of the country’s hydropower, severely impacted electricity generation. This resulted in a harsh reality for Ugandans – power rationing and outages that stretched for as long as 12 hours a day.
  4. Ethiopia, March 2024: A widespread power outage plunged much of Ethiopia into darkness, leaving millions without electricity. The Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) attributed the blackout to problems within their system, but details on the specific cause remain undisclosed. The disruption impacted all regions except for Bahir Dar, a city in the northwest, and its surrounding areas.

Also Read: Useful Insights to maintaining electrical systems in power generation facilities

Implications and lessons learned

  • Infrastructure vulnerability: These outages reveal the vulnerabilities in the power infrastructure. They highlight the importance for ongoing investment in modernisation and maintenance.
  • Diversification of energy sources: Dependence on single sources of energy, especially hydropower, poses risks. Diversifying with renewable energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal is crucial.
  • Emergency preparedness: Improved emergency response plans and backup systems are essential, particularly for critical services such as hospitals and communication networks.
  • Investment and policy: Governments and stakeholders must prioritise policies and investments that enhance grid reliability and sustainability. This will ensure a stable and consistent power supply.