Sweeping power cuts leave Togo’s traders facing ruinWed, 29 May 2024 06:30:07 GMT

In downtown Lome, food wholesaler Kofidjin Amouzou recently had to throw away around $500 worth of rotting fish because his freezer broke down during Togo’s devastating power cuts.The West African country has been battered by outages for weeks and the crisis worsened in early May to the point that some parts of the capital have been without electricity all day.”I’m angry because it’s becoming more and more unbearable,” shopkeeper Nadege Ediyo told AFP, speaking from the dark entrance of her cosmetics store. “No one is telling us clearly what’s going on.”Faced with rising discontent, national electricity company CEET issued a statement earlier this month blaming “difficulties in the supply of natural gas at national level, leading to restrictions from our external suppliers”. Regional powerhouse Nigeria, which suffers from frequent load shedding itself, has limited its electricity supplies to Togo, Niger and Benin since May 1 for a period of six months. The consequences were immediately felt in Togo, which imports a large part of its electricity from Nigeria and is several million dollars in debt to the Nigerian electricity operator, according to accounts the operator published.Hair salon manager Jean Digla said it had become “a real ordeal”.He said his daily income had plummeted to between 3,000 and 5,000 CFA francs ($5-8) — where before it was three times higher.”The situation is suffocating us,” said Digla.”Who will reimburse us for our losses? Enough is enough,” a restaurant manager in Lome told AFP.- Freezers and generators -Some businesses have been hit especially hard.”My main freezer is damaged, my products spoil every day and my losses have been enormous since the power cuts,” said Afiwa Nadou, manager of a frozen food store in Lome’s Be district market.Others have profited — business is booming at Tokoin Ramco, home to a small generator market.  “Our sales have soared, and the crowds are great,” said dealer Ahmed Abou. Generator rental and repair shops are doing well too.Most, though, are struggling — and the government faces mounting calls to take action.”This disastrous situation is the direct consequence of calamitous and haphazard management of state resources,” said Edoh Komi, head of the MMLK civil society organisation.”The state must take appropriate measures to prevent this crisis from continuing,” warned Emmanuel Sogadji, head of the Togo Consumers League. The electricity crisis comes at a time of political tensions in Togo, following a contested constitutional reform giving President Faure Gnassingbe the opportunity to extend his already nearly two-decade rule.At a press conference on Saturday, Energy Minister Mila Aziable denied Togo’s debt to the Nigerian operator was behind the drop in electricity supply.She said maintenance work on power plants in Ghana and “major work on gas transport infrastructure in Nigeria” were to blame for a lack of gas and electricity not only in Togo, but also in Benin, Ghana and Nigeria.