Electricity just like water in Botswana is a huge challenge. I find it ironic that it took us until the 21st century to get where we are with all these water and electricity problems, when Botswana is now considered a ‘middle income’ country. Back when the country was finding its feet, there were very, very rarely any issues with electricity and water.
Botswana struggles to produce its own electricity, instead relying heavily on neighbouring South Africa. South Africa itself (and indeed the rest of the Southern African region) is grappling with severe power shortages.
Botswana has suffered power shortages for close to a decade, and hope is pinned on the 600MW plant, Morupule B being fully operational sometime this century. However, the power station is far behind schedule and has faced a myriad of technical problems to date.
Besides the ‘fear’ of load shedding, the rainy season is another threat to electricity supply in Botswana that people have to contend with. Whenever there’s rain, thunder, lightening and slightest gusts of winds (any one of those or collectively), chances are you’ll be plunged into darkness. For this reason, although the rain is highly appreciated by all Batswana; whenever it rains you’re left bracing yourself for the shoe to drop. Load shedding happens mainly in the summer, and rarely in the winter.
Botswana’s rapid expansion in the 1980s and 1990s has increased demand, which is currently outstripping supply. What power Botswana does produce falls way short, and the shortfall is sourced from South Africa’s power company, Eskom. South Africa however, like other countries in the region, is grappling with power shortages of its own. As such, South Africa is only able to bail out Botswana if it has sufficient power.
Because of the severe power outages, many Botswana businesses have installed back-up systems to cope with the power outages. However, many smaller ones have none or can only afford partial backup and are therefore semi-paralysed by outages.
Electricity Rates are reasonable. P500 (just under $50) worth of ‘units’ based on two adults is enough to last just over 2 months. Most residential areas are connected to a pay-as-you-go system, which allows you more control of your individual consumption. Because of the pay-as-you-go system, you won’t receive any statements. You can buy your electricity units through the BPC branches, the post office and supermarkets. Those who have Orange Money are also able to purchase it that way.
Word of caution- Ensure that you never run too low because the BPC system network is known to go down from time to time, and that means not being able to top up as you wouldn’t be able to top up anywhere.
Customer Service Delivery
Based on in-store reception, BPC staff are always courteous, polite and helpful. This goes for the security personnel through to the agents. Having never called the BPC helpline, I can’t give any feedback on that. What I feel BPC could do with improving is their communication. Although I appreciate the extent of the electricity crisis in Botswana, BPC being a lot more transparent and communicative would go a long way to lessening the frustrations of its customers. Leaving their customers in the dark at the most inconvenient of times will only damage the customers’ faith in BPC. I think BPC would do well to observe and learn from Water Utilities, which while not perfect, does make a concerted effort to keep the customer abreast of all new developments.
For instance, Water Utilities try to schedule water rations, while BPC often administer random power outages. BPC does post updates and warnings on its Facebook page, but they seem to do it inconsistently and not really across the board. You basically never really know when your power will go.
I returned from my festive break in Maun last night, all raring to work from home today. I got off to a great start, getting through a lot of work by lunchtime. However, at 3.40pm, poof! The power went without warning. We checked everything to ensure it wasn’t load shedding, but sadly, it was. The power didn’t come back until around 5.15pm, by which time I’d lost some of my steam.
I’m not sure why it’s so hard to issue a schedule, so that we can all be prepared for and work around load shedding. Last year BPC did try to issue one, although in the end they seemed to tear it up and throw it out the window. This year, I haven’t once seen or heard of a load shedding schedule being issued.
*The newly re-vamped BPC site doesn’t always load, but the web address is https://www.bpc.bw if you want to visit it.