Last week Eskom implemented stage one of its proposed load shedding, making it the fifth consecutive day of rolling blackouts after earlier days of unplanned maintenance and back-up generators, which failed to come online.

On Wednesday, its Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said the load shedding phase will be with the country for the next two years. “It is expected that the situation would continue throughout winter when consumption is higher as the constraints on the grid mean that planned, controlled, and rotational load shedding and load curtailment, are introduced to protect the power system.”

Eskom has also called on all customers to reduce electricity usage by switching off geysers, air conditioners, pool pumps and all non-essential appliances throughout the day in order to reduce electricity demand. The tragic story of this struggling South African power utility, however, presents key lessons for other African countries.

If you don’t manage your assets, they’ll manage your decisions: Eskom’s story can be summarized in one simple statement – failure to maintain infrastructure. “Eskom has not stayed faithful to maintaining its infrastructure. If you do not do maintenance, that car will break down, sometimes embarrassing you,” CEO Tshediso Matona said. “How Eskom has kept the lights on, was to defer maintenance and use diesel…Our equipment has become so unreliable and the risk of breakdown has become so high and that has created havoc for us. This is what is happening with many generation units at Eskom.”

Inefficient management of resources is a stigma that has characterized African societies for years. But this must be intelligently addressed by inculcating the right philosophies in the continent’s leaders.

Competition will always be good for business: Brands that operate as a monopoly can get away with offering sloppy services because there’s no alternative. This was the case with Eskom. It is South Africa’s sole energy provider, and as such faced little or no checkmating. For more than two decades, Eskom was neglectful of maintaining their infrastructure. Africa has to usher in an era of competitive markets in order to challenge mediocrity.

It all falls back on leadership: Since Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki left the office of the presidency, the country’s economy has suffered from mismanagement and poor oversight. The reign of Jacob Zuma has seen South Africa fall from its height as Africa’s most developed economy to one riddled with union strikes, unemployment, xenophobic attacks and power outages. All of these have been linked to the poor management of the country by the current administration. It was recently disposed by Nigeria as the largest economy on the continent.

By Emmanuel Iruobe

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