from AHMED MOOLA in Cairo, Egypt
CAIRO, (CAJ News) – THE worst electricity shortage in living memory has plunged Egypt, Africa’s second-largest economy, into multiple crises.
The crisis means Africa’s three largest economies all face electricity crises.
Electricity shortages in the biggest economy, Nigeria, have raged for years. South Africa’s power crunch peaked in 2022 and power cuts are now a daily occurrence.
In Egypt, it represents a spectacular energy crumble for the North African country that, only in 2019, achieved gas self-sufficiency and was an exporter of the commodity.
Lately, the Egyptian government has been limiting electricity use with daily power cutbacks nationwide, a development Human Rights Watch (HRW) believes is putting people’s economic and social rights at risk..
The cuts appear to last longer in rural areas, which have higher poverty rates.
Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, said Egypt’s government had long demanded implicitly that Egyptians sacrifice their civil and political rights in return for economic prosperity.
“But electricity cuts dramatically reduce people’s ability to realize their rights including food, water and health care,” he said.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said that the cuts, which began late July, following a week of sudden blackouts, are to reduce pressure on the country’s electricity infrastructure due to increased demand.
However, government officials have also said that the electricity crisis was caused by an inadequate gas supply to run power plants.
The government has been planning at least since August 2022 to ration electricity to enable the export of natural gas as a way of shoring up foreign currency reserves.
So severe is the crisis that among other measures, some public sector employees now work from home on Sundays.
Sunday is a workday in Egypt.
Egyptians have been expressing their anger on social media.
In the capital, Cairo, the cuts last an entire hour four times a day, compared with five in Upper Egypt and the Delta region.
HRW reports some residents in some areas of Giza only receive two hours of electricity over a 15-hour span.
Outages may last for up to three hours in villages.
Meanwhile, plans by the government to increase the supply of electricity generated from renewables to 20 percent by 2022 were not met.
Renewables only accounted for 11 percent last year.
– CAJ News