The power sector in the DRC is almost entirely moribund, with only 13% of the population having any access to electricity. This is despite the fact that the enormous Inga Falls could theoretically produce enough power to meet the needs of all of southern Africa. Plans for the Grand Inga dam which could meet this goal have been stalled for years due to political instability.
In eastern DRC, however, small steps are being taken towards better electricity supply thank to the liberalization of the power sector. As this Global Press Journal article shows, the state-owned electricity company, SNEL, had largely failed to maintain its network. However, a new entrance into the sector, the private company La Société Congolaise de Distribution d’Eau et d’Electricité (SOCODEE), began operating in 2018.
Some residents of Goma said they’ve seen rapid improvements:
Along with small-business owners like Neema Hassan, industrial consumers also benefit from the competitive market. For example, Nyiragongo Cement used to suffer power outages throughout the day. However, uninterrupted electricity has improved profits, says Maxime Kakule, purchasing agent at Nyiragongo Cement. “Ever since we turned to SOCODEE, the price of a bag of cement has dropped. A bag that once cost up to $11 currently sells for $9. So, it really has a positive impact for everyone’s benefit,” Kakule says.
Families also say the availability of electricity makes life easier. Jean Baptiste Mupenzi, a father of six, says access to electricity every day is a positive development. “Today, my family and I can sit down together around a TV every night, and the kids can do their homework without any hindrance,” he says.
However, the total installed capacity between SNEL and SOCODEE is still too low to meet the needs of all residents in Goma. Beyond this, I’m also quite curious about how SOCODEE is generating their power — are they just buying existing supply off of SNEL and then building a better transmission network?