Niger’s worst power cuts in years have crippled businesses and government offices in the capital Niamey for more than three weeks, raising fears they could harm the fragile economy of one of the world’s poorest nations. Niamey and Niger’s southwestern provinces of Dosso and Tillaberi have been largely without electricity since May 25 when a storm knocked out power lines to the Kainji hydroelectric dam in western Nigeria. The three regions are home to more than a third of Niger’s 17 million inhabitants, and the bulk of the output from the landlocked country’s $11bn economy, which grew 11% last year thanks to good harvests and the start of oil output. Small businesses, which employ most of the population, have been the hardest hit as they can seldom afford generators. Most of the population in Niger, which ranked bottom of the UN human development index, survives on around 1 dollar a day.
With summer temperatures soaring, water has been cut off in parts of the capital and surrounding towns. Niger’s state radio has transmitted only intermittently in recent days after its standby generator burnt out. “Our production capacity is one third our needs so blackouts are inevitable,” Foreign Minister Mohamed Bazoum said. The connection with Nigeria provided half the 103 megawatt needs of Niamey and Tillaberi, and all of Dosso’s. Two power turbines supplying Niamey and Tillaberi have since burnt out under the strain of round the clock production, further cutting the region’s generating capacity from 56 megawatts to 39. Of the 39 megawatt of generation capacity still serving the capital, half is reserved for the armed forces, the SEEE water company and hospitals, leaving the private sector and other government departments even more short of power.