South Africa pulls the plug

Gretchen Wilson Jan 21, 2008


Scott Jagow: In some African countries, power outages are common. Not in South Africa, though. South Africa’s been in the grip of a serious power shortage lately, though. Gretchen Wilson reports from Johannesburg.

Gretchen Wilson: South Africa is literally the region’s powerhouse, exporting excess electricity to many of its neighbors, including Zambia and Zimbabwe.

But state provider says South Africa’s own demand now exceeds supply. One reason is many rural communities here have recently been electrified for the first time. But the country’s capacity to generate power hasn’t kept up.

South Africa’s supermarkets are throwing out food that require refrigeration, retailers are closing their doors, and restaurants are turning people away. Trains are stalled on the tracks. In a desperate bid to meet local demand, South Africa’s provider has pulled the plug on neighboring countries, such as Botswana and Namibia.

South Africa says its newest power station is only due online in five years, which means power shortages across the region could be here to stay.

In Johannesburg, I’m Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.

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