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Murchison conversation should be on distribution

Murchison falls

Murchison falls

For the cynical, my wife and I are the most romantic couple in the world! Several times a week, we have a candlelit dinner or simply sit outside the house for long hours to enjoy the stars, moon, and of course crickets chirping.

As we watch the sky, sometimes we see satellite flares which our six-year-old daughter, Nakazigo, interprets as “God taking a selfie!” or “God has a very powerful torch.” And she says she hates these candlelit dinners and watching the sky.

I hate it too because nothing for me takes away the beauty of light. The candlelit dinners we have at home are not because we are hopeless romantics. It is because our electricity in this part of Kira municipality, less than just 15km from the General Post Office in Kampala is the most unreliable in the world. Anything takes away our electricity. Yet some neighbours from another supply line always have power.

I rarely call the distributor because they send me one complaint reference number after another. I have friends who work with the distributor and I call them several times a week to help out. Sometimes I don’t even want to call them, not because it would disrupt our candlelit dinners but because I feel I am bothering them. One of them sounded frustrated last week and asked why the company doesn’t solve this problem forever.

Sometimes this unreliable distribution spoils our electric appliances but also it destroys the gadgets the distributor installed at the top of the poles ensuring that some houses on the street sometimes have and others don’t until the distributor replaces the parts. Sometimes I am happy this unreliable electricity has damaged the distributor’s parts! It is called being frustrated or karma, if you wish.

I have been seeing campaigns and threats to protest over a proposed electricity dam to be built over the Murchison falls (or Kabalega falls), which apparently will displace treasured wildlife and put the ecological system of River Nile into turmoil.

With Isimba dam launched a few months ago, the country currently generates 1,138MW of power. When Karuma dam comes online in December this year, it will produce another 600MW. With 1,738MW, we will have enough power to light up the country.

Yet many families will continue having forced candlelit dinners because investments in reliable electricity distribution aren’t matching investments in generation. When it rains, power is off or it starts flashing like car indicators.

The transmission lines fall down as they wish. Transformers blow up at slight provocation, making life really hard for everyone. Actually it is always a surprise if your electricity remains on during a heavy downpour!

Since we are now fine with generation, our conversation should shift to transmission and distribution. How can we have reliable power? What investments do we need in this area? Isn’t it time to push the likes of Bonang Power and Energy if they are worth the ink of this article to look at investing in transmission and distribution instead of proposing dams over some treasured falls?

Yet when we talk about transmission and distribution, we should not simply limit ourselves to electricity. Water is another a problem. Parts of Kira, less than 20km from one of the biggest fresh water bodies in the world, have no piped water or where the pipes exist, they have been dry for years. Water boosters are promised every few months. Managers at water offices have mastered the words “in two months’ time” when you ask when water distribution will normalize.

Although I have limited myself to Kira, you can say that about almost everywhere in the country. I was recently in the north and a ‘basinfull’ of mangoes (about 10kg) was going for Shs 2,000 if you stopped to ask while driving a fancy SUV.

If you were using public means or some rickety car, the price was Shs 500 with lots of nyongeza (bonus). Less than 200km away in Soroti, a fruit factory needs these mangoes and other fruits but the distribution is not as good even when the roads are glittering like silver cyprinid.

In rural Masaka, a bunch of matoke doesn’t cost even Shs 10,000 yet in Kampala, less than 150km away, the same size is sold at Shs 30,000. Telecoms talk about their 4Gs networks all the time but we all know the internet is slow and unreliable almost all the time and yet very expensive. There are areas in the country today where you can’t access Internet or even make a telephone call.

Distribution of almost anything in Uganda continues to be a challenge and investors instead of going for dams could consider investments in transmission and distribution for almost all sorts of utilities, services and goods.


The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.


0 #1 Akot 2019-06-25 20:44
Investors go for dams because it brings them money, while not concerned about how many people have the means to use electricity in a country like Uganda!

Electricity pays back to companies through office/home use; cookers, tvs, lighting (home/streets), fridges, computors...!

While every household/companies in developed countries use & pay monthly elctricity/gas bills, how many do so in Uganda?

A few months ago we were told there was exess power in Uganda, right?

Is this because every company, every household use electricity in Uganda?

But, the noise Murchison Falls & surrounding nature give is so overwhelming, yet reassuring & the view from near is so so agonising, lovely, frightening, yet so so cool!

As you get nearer the Falls, the heart beats so so fast!
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+3 #2 Lysol 2019-06-25 20:52
Aside from bragging about your romantic life and SUV;you have offered nothing new.

How do you know that your are the most romantic couple in the world?

Why not buy a solar panel or two to light you up? It seems you can easily afford it. Waste of space and time bragging here. The Observer could do better with its article postings.
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-2 #3 makh 2019-06-26 14:08
Quoting Lysol:
Aside from bragging about your romantic life and SUV;you have offered nothing new.

How do you know that your are the most romantic couple in the world?

Why not buy a solar panel or two to light you up? It seems you can easily afford it. Waste of space and time bragging here. The Observer could do better with its article postings.

It is important to read and understand. R&U.
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+1 #4 Lysol 2019-06-27 01:18
The headline or the first paragraph always tells it all. It seems you don't understand the social media how it works.

Always go straight to the point instead of wasting time with your life story. Hope Juuko understands that. The rest is innuendo.
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0 #5 Martin Ogang 2019-06-29 02:23
Some people have not appreciated the import of the article. It is a statement of frustration depicting dysfunctions in investment planning. How do you increasing generating capacity without concomitant investment in distribution?

You continue paying for generation while not realizing revenue from sales. Put differently, it is like a restaurant cooking great food while lacking where to serve the food. Clients will simply not come
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