Am I boring you with my updates on the electricity situation here? If so, I’m sorry. Just wanted to bring you up to speed. It’s December now and the power cuts have increased, not lessened, seeming to follow a more random pattern by the day. It’s no longer 12 hours, 7 days; right now it’s just completely random. Power is off many days for 18 hours, from 6 or 7 am till 10 pm (nice, candle light). And when it is on, it can fail any moment, come back any moment. It can be gone for an hour or for two days. Maybe that’s how one makes people appreciate power more? Read the rest of this entry »


Not trying to start another weblog on the power situation, this one does fine. It also describes perfectly how the most annoying thing in this whole crisis is the lack of any reliable information. The dams have shut down now, the country should be experiencing complete black-outs, but here, in our office/house, the power has been on for 5 days in a row now! What’s up with that? The infamous Richmond Development Company, that postbox company that took our governments money and never delivered, suddenly delivers part one and two of the ordered turbines. Even though these are rumored to be nothing more than unserviceable engines from a Boeing 707 (? Would not anybody have noticed this before arrival? Isn’t this like ordering a fridge and getting a stove?)

At the office, we’re so used to Murphy’s law that we’re not even disappointed that just when our brand-new 20 battery no-break (pictured above) has been installed, power seems to be back 24 hours a day. We know we live in Tanzania and as soon as we disconnect that no-break we’ll plunge into darkness. For all we know Moshi is now running on our no-break. Or maybe it was all a bad dream.

For the techies, pictured above are a number of boxes, chained so as to make sure that nothing bar a commercial airliner landing in our garden will stop our power supply. First off, the white box holding a ‘Surge Protector‘, being cheapest and first to blow in case lightning strikes or Tanesco putting two phases into one. This one makes sure the rest only sees outside power when it’s in between 180 and 270 volts. Onwards to the big (!) 10.000 VA stabilizer, giving the house 220 volts of power, no matter what it’s fed on it’s input. And then finally, onwards to the black box, called an inverter, which charges a total of 20(!) solar power dry-cell batteries when it gets power from the stabilizer, and generates electricity from those same batteries when it’s on its own. And this for all our hardware, at least 8 hours without interruption.

The cost of doing business in Africa, we’ll call it.

Long overdue update from the aptly named ‘dark continent’. I normally strongly object to this term but it seems, as far as Tanzania is concerned, the future is literally dark. Time for yet another update on the power situation over here…

We’re on our second, or is it third, day of power. Probably cause of Eid El-fitr, the end of Ramadan, but worrying none the less. As you can read in the papers, or nicely collected on Powernell’s Tanzanian Power log, we’re very near doom. The Mtara dam, one of the bigger suppliers of electricity, has shut down already and apart from a day or two of rain, the water is not coming in… Moshi and Arusha apparently run on a different grid, powered by the Pangani dam, but that one might shut down any moment (running at a measly 2MW). There’s conflicting information all day, warnings of complete blackouts being kind of invalidated by whole days of power, rumors of light at the end of the tunnel being followed by days of powercuts. The wisdom of having power days in a row instead of spreading out the remaining watts over some more nights is beyond me, but hey, I don’t make the rules.

Why would a complete blackout be so bad? Security, for one. It’s reassuring every day when around 7 the lights come back on. We’ve got about half an hour of darkness but then the candles can be put away. The outside lights and lights at the gate start working, giving a feeling of security in the dark hours. Then, there’s the no-break we just bought. Twenty dry cell batteries are now giving us eight hours of uninterrupted office power, providing(!) we can charge them at night. Think of the amount of mobile phones that run out of power if they cannot be charged for 48 hours. The internet going down because the ISP’s no-break also runs out of juice. The petrol stations that’ll be out of stock because the demand for generator juice doubles overnight. Water stops flowing because the pumps needed to create pressure stop working. Food rots, fridges are out, the economy? Ah, yes, and what have our schools been doing with their computers? We know ICT can help people forward but you have to be able to switch the things on…

More uplifting updates coming, nice stories and pictures of the first car to get stuck in the mud this season (Jimny!) and an update on some more bush experiences but for now, let’s use the available electricity for some proper work…