by Hassan Elmi
The electricity cost of Somaliland is outrageous and the consumers are paying through the nose. Although the *GDP per capita of an average consumer in Somaliland is $600 annually based on the United Nations census, the cost per kilowatt of electricity in Somaliland is more expensive than in the USA and some other European countries.
Whether you call it intentional gouging or free market principles at work, the acquiescence of the government is suspect. To perpetuate the domination of the market and preserve their exclusive extortion of customers, government officials are somehow convinced to look the other way, with a wink and a nod.In reciprocation the owners of the electric generators are assured to pay little taxation, which proportionally is not commensurate with what the lady who is selling few tomatoes at the corner pays, or no taxation at all. Somehow they are also shielded and are able to dwarf any large scale competition such as establishing a single high capacity generator that would provide inexpensive electricity throughout the city and duplicate it in all cities of Somaliland.
The proof of my allegation is in the pudding. For instance, neither the current government nor the previous governments have seriously addressed this pressing issue. Our sister country Djibouti had a similar problem until they negotiated with their friendly neighbor Ethiopia to provide muchneeded affordable electricity. Consequently, the cost per kilowatt of electricity in Djibouti went down significantly followed by a robust economy. This proves that there is a direct correlation between the availably and reliability of reasonably priced energy, national development, and economic advancement.
Likewise, Somaliland government officials have the capacity and can articulate to Ethiopia in a framework that addresses long term geo-political and economic advantages to both countries of mutual cooperation that include buying electricity from them since they have abundant energy resources.
Ethiopia is already selling electricity to Sudan (100 megawatts of power), Kenya (400 megawatts), and Djibouti (35 Megawatts). Ethiopia is currently looking at a potential electricity deal with Yemen. If the study prove practical, electric cables could be laid out via the Red Sea; hence providing a reliable source of energy for Yemen. If Yemen is ensuing to be a player in this bonanza of trading with Ethiopia in the pursuit of cheaper energy, what in the world are our government officials waiting for, unless they are more interested in kickbacks than mitigating the suffering of their constituents?
Energy is a catalyst to development and economic advancement. Every aspect of the economy, including but not limited to household utilities, light industries, and security thrive where energycostis affordably available.I am flabbergasted to occasionally hear the debate of who should get the rights of running the cement factory in Berbera. Before that argument is settled we should ask where the energy to run it would come from. The process of separating iron ore from the sand requires so much heat that those rudimentary generator those cartels are milking will not suffice.
To come back to my original point of contention, it is ironic that some of the members of the electricity cartel claim to be devout Muslim who often preach the importance of equality, fairness, justice and charity to the poor. You are judged by your deeds, not your rhetoric.
The word “RIBO” in Somali means usury, which is abhorred in Islamic societies. It is eliciting an unbearable and deliberate compensation for a product or service on someone who can’t possibly pay for it but his/her livelihood and the livelihood of his family depends on. The payment is equated, in my opinion, cutting your nose to spite your face.