The current load-shedding programme being implemented by the sole electricity provider Escom has hit businesses hard, forcing some operators to scale down and send some employees on holiday, Business News has learnt.
Currently, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) is undertaking an extended load-shedding programme for two weeks due to the closure of Kapichira I power station to undertake works on Kapichira II which will add 64 megawatts (MW) to the national grid.
In a statement, Escom said the shutdown of Kapichira Power Station has reduced the total generation installed capacity of 282.5 MW by 64 MW or, 23 percent, resulting in extended load shedding to cater for the shortage since average peak demand now is at 310 MW.
A snap survey has revealed that businesses that rely on Escom power such as barber shops, saloons, restaurants and even Bottle Stores have scaled down operations waiting for power supply to improve.
Managing director of Steel Touch in Lilongwe, Andrew Chalamanda, said he is planning to introduce night shifts to compensate for the hours that the workers are staying idle when there is no power.
“The problem is that we receive payments in advance and then we have deadlines. So, if we to honour our promises the customers can go to our competitors,” he said.
Chalamanda, whose company manufactures furniture along the Blantyre-Lilongwe road, said there is need for Escom to hasten the repairs so that companies and businesses can minimise losses.
One of a restaurant owner in Lilongwe said on Wednesday he has decided to downsize his staff until the situation improves.
“Electricity is unreliable and there is no reason why I should keep my staff here and yet there is no power. I depend on electricity to cook foodstuffs and without electricity, only a few employees will be working on the gas stoves and I have decided to send some employees on leave,” he said.
Proprietor of Sunset Bottle Store in Lilongwe Robert Gama said he is spending more money to buy petrol to run his generator, which is eating into his profits.
“We are suffering twice because when there are blackouts we are forced to buy petrol for the generators and yet the bills from Escom do not reflect that we did not use power at certain intervals during a particular month,” he said.
Gama said if the trend continues, he may think of raising prices of his products to recoup the money that goes into fuel.
Julius Maherewa, who owns a maize mill in Mchesi Township in the Capital City said his family is suffering because of the blackouts.
“There are times when the power outages are taking the whole day and there is nothing one can do about it,” he said.
A saloon owner in Kawale Township, Prisca Sandalama, said her customers are complaining that she is not assisting them and yet the problem lies with Escom.
Consumer Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said business owners who are suffering due to the outages should have confronted Escom for solutions when the load shedding announcement was made and not wait once the company is carrying out repairs.
“Escom wants to sort the problems that are there at Kapichira and they already informed the nation in advance and this is going to be the situation. I was surprised that even during the press conference Escom organised, there were no business people and they should not complain now,” he said, advising business operators to come together and voice their concerns to Escom.