Power blackout exposes vulnerability of Busia's 24-hour economy

A section of Oginga Odinga streets in Kisumu in total darkness following a power blackout on January 9, 2018. Photo | Ondari Ogega | NMG
A section of Oginga Odinga streets in Kisumu in total darkness following a power blackout on January 9, 2018. Photo | Ondari Ogega | NMG 

A major power outage in Kenya and Uganda Tuesday evening left large swathes of the neighbouring countries engulfed in darkness.

Lasting over five hours in many areas, it affected residents and businesses in Counties including Mombasa, Kisumu, Kiambu, Eldoret, Kisii, Nyandarua, Nakuru, Meru, Nyeri, Tharaka -Nithi and Bomet.

However, in Busia County, the blackout also exposed the vulnerability of the border town's much touted 24-hour economy.

The County Government, which has previously promised investors a good business environment and opportunities as it tries to grow the local economy, has expressed disappointment in Kenya Power #ticker:KPLC over outages.


Busia Governor Sospeter Ojaamong says power failures have been a frequent occurrence that have affected the County's efforts to run smoothly.

“Busia is a border County, and we experience blackouts?” Mr Ojaamong posed Wednesday.

“The level of insecurity and crime increases, which does not go down well with the business community. Part of our economy is largely supported by local tourism and hospitality industry which has tremendously grown in the past few years. For such industries, it simply means that they have to invest in back up plans to support regular electricity lines offered by Kenya Power,” he said.

The County boss called upon the State utility firm to improve power supply by setting up a local power station with more voltage to ensure distribution of electricity un-interrupted.

Border revenue loss

“By and large most of our businesses are very fragile especially the cross-border trade which is runs on a 24-hour basis. We are losing over 40 per cent of revenue accruing from trade revenue every month when we experience such outage due reduction to the hours of operation.”

The outages did not directly affect operations at the One Stop Border Post (OBSP) in Busia which has a standby generator to serve in case of power failure.

But Mr Charles Achieng’, a senior official at the Trade Information Desk, said frequency of power outages often leads to businesses stalling.

“As a leader of business community, that very moment we have interruption in electricity supply, business completely stops because most small scale businessmen from both Uganda and Kenya largely depend on operations of the border,” he said.

The recent blackout also affected some parts of Uganda as its power grid is connected to Kenya's.

Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL)’s corporate affairs manager Mr Simon Kasyate suggested to the Daily Monitor that the outage in Uganda may have been a deliberate safety precaution.

“Because of the interconnection with the Kenyan grid, when the problem happened in Kenya, Uganda had to be affected. We have disconnected Uganda from the Kenyan grid so as to connect Uganda independently,” he told the paper.