In the dark: Electricity a ‘luxury’ in poor Madagascar | AFP


Claudine and her family have been living
in this makeshift tent for almost six months. Their home was one of 20 houses that burned down in
this neighbourhood of Madagascar’s capital. The fire was caused
by an electrical short-circuit. “The short-circuit started on that house over there,
as the house is made of dry wood when the pole caught fire the electrical wires spread the
fire to our house which is also made of wood.” In Antananarivo, 60% of fires
are triggered by short circuits. These technicians from Madagascar’s water and
electricity company Jirama are here to replace an electricity pole. It’s a rare
sight, the vast majority of electrical installations are a hundred years old,
with illegal power tapping making the situation even more dangerous. “People connect wherever they want without permission and the transformers can’t
take the overload. An installation can only hold three amps for example and
there are people doing welding using hair appliances and other high voltage
devices. Cables from their homes can overheat and burn. But Jirama itself has been accused of
mismanagement for many years. It has sold its electricity at a loss, buying kilowatt hours from private
suppliers at twice the price it sells to consumers. The result? A colossal debt of
300 million euros and frequent power cuts to save electricity. This electronic equipment salesman is tired of the power cuts and has now
turned to solar panels. “When I used to buy electricity from Jirama whenever we watched TV shows it would always
cut out when it got interesting. Whereas since we’ve been using solar panels we can use all our devices.” Only one in ten people in Madagascar currently have access to electricity, but with the
country enjoying nearly 2,800 hours of sunshine per year, turning to solar
energy could offer the country a more reliable and greener source of power.

Maurice Vega

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