Millions of pounds lost over unreliable electricity: Ayii

Millions of pounds lost over unreliable electricity: Ayii
South Sudan’s Business and Employees Federation President Ayii Duang Ayii addressing the media on Tuesday in his office. [Sheila Ponnie, City Review]

South Sudanese businessman Ayii Duang Ayii has criticised the Juba Electricity Distribution Company for failing to supply reliable power, hence stagnating the country’s production.

Addressing the media in Juba on Tuesday, Ayii said businesses need stable and affordable electricity to provide effective and efficient production.

 “Juba doesn’t have a stable and reliable electricity supply and has always suffered from regular power cuts, which usually last for 12 hours,” Ayii said.

“For those of us who mainly depend on JEDCO as the source of electricity supply; it is a big loss in millions of South Sudanese pounds,” he added.

Ayii, who is the president of the South Sudan Business Community and Employers’ Federation, said, those who are connected to the power grid pay for some of the highest electricity rates in the world despite the unreliable service.

“This Juba electricity is very expensive; imagine it is $1 per kilowatt-hour, which sometimes doesn’t last for long,” said Kuch Lual, a shop owner in Gudele Kubri Haboba.

“Half of the country’s population lives in poverty, and this $1  per kilowatt-hour is already absurdly costly for many houses and businesses,” he said.

In 2018, Ezra Group, an Eritrean firm, inaugurated 100 megawatts of fossil fuel capacity at a cost of nearly $290 million.

The government said it would repay Ezra over 17 years by charging higher electricity rates.

Last month, the Speaker of the Reconstituted National Legislative Assembly, Jemma Nunu Kumba, said that the exorbitant energy prices of JEDCO forced the country to ask for a donation of a generator from the Egyptian government.

However, the government said it plans to invest in the 1,080-MW Grand Fula project proposed near the Ugandan border but noted that insecurity and instability are derailing the implementation of the project.

Nhial Kuch, an economist for Uganda’s Evidence-Based Policy, argued that South Sudan will not realise inclusive growth and sustainable development without access to reliable power.

According to Kuch, South Sudan is blessed with crude oil and the Nile, yet only 7.1 per cent of the population has access to electricity.

Kuch said South Sudan cannot industrialise without reliable electricity.

“Nearly every sector of the economy requires energy to fully tap the benefits,” he added.

Juba Electricity Distribution Company (JEDCO), which is the main electric power supplier in the capital, was established in May 2018 as a private-public partnership company incorporating EZRA Group and South Sudan Electricity Corporation (SSEC), which hold 52 per cent and 48 per cent shares, respectively.