We rely on generating plants as our primary source of

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generators. "We rely on generating plants as our primary source of power," says Wale Goodluck, MTN Nigeria's manager for regulatory affairs. The same is true for small businesses. Barbers, welders, and bakers all rely on their own power supplies, which is three times costlier and far more polluting than getting electricity from the national supply system. "I can employ 50 more tailors, but the power outage is wrecking my business," says Okorie Idika, who owns a shop that makes babariga, traditional garments. "I can't run this operation on generating plants. I won't be competitive." It wasn't always this bad. Nigeria used to have 79 power stations. When civilian rule was restored in 1999, only 15 were still functioning, generating just 1,500 megawatts of electricity. Olusegun Obasanjo, who became President after the military regime, spent $8.5 billion repairing and building power stations, but the output has not increased significantly. Emmanuel Adewole, an economics professor at Lagos State University, calls it "the most expensive darkness in the world." The World Bank estimates that the country is losing about $600 million a year because of inadequate supplies of electricity. Nigeria's new President, Umaru Yar'Adua, has called the power situation "abysmal," saying it has stunted the country's economic growth, and he has pledged to make fixing it a priority of his administration. But the task is daunting. One problem: getting gas to the plants from the Niger delta, where rebels regularly vandalize pipelines. Corruption also runs deep, and consumers, who see no need to pay their energy bills, owe billions of dollars to the state-owned Power Holding Corp. of Nigeria. (Prepaid cards are increasingly being used, but in a country where everyone is an electrician, many have figured out how to bypass the meters.) The government wants to privatize the company and is taking bids for power-generating plants from 400 local and foreign investors.
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  • Spring '10
  • Siggelakis
  • La Plante

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