SMEs see light as load-shedding ends

SMALL businesses like this one lost a lot of customers because they could not run most of their services without electricity.

LIKE snow in the summer, the depression wrought by rolling power blackouts is dissipating – yes – but in its wake it leaves beautician Charity Bwalya with a gloomy face, which greets me when I step into her roadside hair parlour in Lusaka’s Kalingalinga township.
Her salon falls into the broader category of Zambia’s more than one million informal micro and small medium enterprises (MSMEs), among which electricity, one of several operating costs, had loomed so large due to longer periods of loadshedding lasting between eight and 15 hours.
But with Zesco recently sounding the death knell when it announced that load-shedding has ended in Zambia, Charity, in the manner of a stranded sailor who spots a rescue craft heaving into view, leapt for joy.
And since the development has started her business on a return to normalcy, her current state now fulfils every letter in one of the world’s most soothing words – hope.
“So then when power would go for that long, how were you coping?” I asked the 38-year-old hairdresser.
“It was very difficult because the way we do business, it’s based on power. You need to wash the head of that client. After you’re done washing it, you need to dry the hair and that involves power, so without power, it means that person will just say, ‘Oh, I’ll come back when power’s there.’ So you’ll find that maybe the whole day you’re just sitting doing nothing. It was very bad, at least now it’s fair,” she said.
When the power crisis deepened, the salaries for Charity’s two workers went unmet for months on end, and CLICK TO READ MORE

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