A lot of small and informal businesses in Zimbabwe have expressed dismay in the wake of the 16-hour ZESA power cuts that have been implemented throughout the country. While larger businesses have been mostly spared with industrial areas getting less load-shedding, most informal industries are located in residential areas and have borne the brunt of ZESA’s unscheduled power cuts that are hard to predict and plan around.

Most people have lamented the fact that ZESA does not have a load-shedding schedule. While Eskom the power utility in South Africa has been grappling with power deficit and load-shedding, they have at least worked out a schedule which shows exactly how much each neighbourhood can expect to spend without power. This allows small businesses and residents to plan accordingly. ZESA has been accused of switching power on and off and random intervals with zero warning.

It is not clear why ZESA does not have a load-shedding schedule either. In the past they as during 2019 they had a schedule which made their powercuts somewhat manageable and easier to plan around. This year is different and the results have been disastrous for a lot of small businesses. Butcheries in a lot of neighbourhoods for example have had to find expensive fuel for generators. Households have had to throw away rotten meat as refrigerators are only getting power for less than half a day.

The rise of solar power

While everyone is complaining, solar installers and vendors have been celebrating a boost in business. A lot of entities have been investing in solar power and it becomes clear that ZESA might never resolve their crippling power issues. Even big businesses like PPC cement have been installing large megawatt power plants in a bid to mitigate the effects of power cuts that have taken a negative toll on productivity. Domestic users have also been buying solar kits that at least cover the basics like WiFi, phone charging and entertainment.

However solar installations have high upfront costs and sometimes are unsuitable. Welders, garage owners and small home industries that operate a lot of power-hungry equipment would never be able to afford the cost of a solar system they need. For most, the only alternatives are expensive petrol and diesel generators. This in turn increases the cost of production resulting in them needing to charge higher prices making sales difficult in a shrinking economy.

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