Relative to global standards, Somalia’s electricity prices are very expensive. Somalia, an East African country with a population of nearly 10 million, has some of the most expensive electricity in the world. According to an article by Al Jazeera, a kilowatt of electricity in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, can cost up to $1 per hour, which is five times more expensive than in Kenya, and 10 times more expensive than in the U.S.
In 1991, Somalia’s energy sector was destroyed.
Following the collapse of the central government, residents were forced to depend on diesel generators for individual households in the early 1990s. Many were left with absolutely no electricity.
Now, the seven electricity companies that exist are all privately owned. Most of them don’t have licenses and operate without paying taxes. “[The private companies] give you electricity when they want and stop it when they want,” said an ice-making factory owner, Abshir Maalin Abdi, in an interview with Al Jazeera.
The individual companies also blatantly deny the customers’ accusations that they are being overcharged. But, the control of the cost is out of the hands of the poor, while the benefits are mostly in the hands of warlords and militias.
A high rate of unemployment
Electricity is a luxury because most of the country’s working population is jobless. According to the U.N., more than half of the country’s population (those between the ages of 15 and 64), is unemployed; the unemployment rate for youth is 67 percent.
In addition, 40 percent of Somalia’s population also lives below the poverty line. Many simply cannot afford electricity, and it is hard for businesses to make money and develop without affordable electricity prices.
What are the solutions?
The government of Somalia has developed a ten-year energy plan to improve the electricity sector, which will cost a total of US$ 803 million. It will involve the construction of new power plants and transmission lines that will boost electricity access in towns and homes, costing an average of US$ 0.50 per unit, according to a report by Geeska Afrika.
Some of the money will go towards funding training programs and will also provide alternative cooking solutions from charcoal use. The ultimate goal is to increase Somalia’s power capacity, and diversity the energy alternatives including solar and wind energy. This has the potential to lead to significant economic growth.
The government must also prioritize and improve the basic economic structure and poor social services, which fuel high unemployment rates of the younger generation.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Abdihakim Egeh Guled, deputy minister of energy and water resources, describes implementing a law to alleviate this problem. “The only thing we can do… is to bring about a legislation that will monitor these companies that provide electricity,” he said. Currently, the country has no laws regulating the electricity industry. Encouraging a drop in electricity prices could radically improve the lives of many.
– Michelle Simon