WORLD CUP 2014

Daily power outages 'harrowing' experience for African World Cup fans

 Power outages are a daily problem for a number of African cities. But when it takes place in the middle of a football match, which just happens to be part of the World Cup, it can be a very harrowing experience for fans.

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In Bamako, football fans had to gather around a screen powered by a generator. Screen grab from a video by Moctar Barry.

 

 

Power outages are a daily problem for a number of African cities. But when it takes place in the middle of a football match, which just happens to be part of the World Cup, it can be a very harrowing experience for fans.

 

In anticipation of the World Cup, several African capitals have tried to mitigate the effects of potential blackouts by setting up enormous generator-powered TV screens. This was the case in Conakry, Guinea, where President Alpha Condé installed 27 enormous screens in five different areas of the capital.

 

Three Observers in Mali, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso shared their experience of their frustrating evening watching the kickoff game on Thursday.

“In Bamako, we queued up in a hair salon to watch the match”

Barry Moctar lives in Bamako.

 

The African Power Outage Cup took place yesterday in Bamako - the power cut off in the middle of the game! Since I could no longer watch it at home, I went out into the streets to see how people were reacting. Several people, in a panic, were running around trying to find electric generators.

 

The only solution that we found was to cram into a local hair salon, which was the only place in the neighbourhood to have both a generator and a television.

 

Just after the power went out, Barry Moctar filmed his neighbourhood plunged in darkness. Soon enough, however, he comes across a hair salon with a generator. 

“In Burkina we had no choice but to listen to the match on the radio”

Basidou Kinda is a blogger in Ouagadougou.

 

On Thursday, there were actually two matches: Brazil-Croatia and another, waged on social networks, which pitted the National Electricity Corporation (SONABEL) against football fans. There were insults and complaints all night long because there was a massive power outage in several neighbourhoods. People were going crazy because the power kept coming on and then off again. Watching the match was so painful!

 

The only solution was to have a 3G phone to connect to Facebook and see how the match was progressing. I had the good luck of being in a neighbourhood with electricity, but several people who were watching the match with me actually spent more time on their phones updating their friends on the score!

 

An angry Koupéla resident wrote on Facebook: "A power cut ... and I missed the end of the game! Bravo to Modric and his team for this high-energy game! But a yellow card to the Japanese referee!"

 

Ouagadougou was not the only city affected: Koupéla, 140 km away from Ouagadougou, suffered a city-wide outage before the end of the match, at the point when we still thought that Croatia could come back. People had no choice but to listen to the match on the readio… which was rather frustrating for the start of a World Cup!

 

Here, in Burkina, we call our national electric utility “Sonavilaine” (“Sona-bad”). And I don’t think the World Cup really helped its reputation.

 

“In Cameroon, TV antennas and generators sprouted everywhere!”

Ulrich Tchadjeu lives in Dschang, a city in western Cameroon.

 

Our city is frequently affected by blackouts, and the last such dramatic episode was on the day of the Barcelona-Real Madrid match for the Spain championship [on October 26, 2013]. There was a city-wide blackout just after the match started, and so many were unable to watch it. People still shudder thinking about this blackout.

 

A generator in a street in Dschang. Photos by Ulrich Tadajeu.

 

So, in anticipation of the World Cup, a number of local bars have mustered an impressive array of equipment, a first for Dschang: electric generators have sprouted everywhere in the city centre as back-up in case of power outages. Some nightclubs even bought two or three generators, to be sure to have enough electricity to screen the entirety of the matches from 5pm to 1am [Editor’s note: the time period during which most World Cup matches are broadcast in Cameroon].

We also saw many satellite TV antennas appearing on roofs. That way, if our national channels were to experience a problem, people could rely on foreign channels. As a precaution, owners of local businesses have chosen to spend about CFA 40,000 [60 euros] to be able to broadcast the games for the next month.

 

 

 

According to the African Development Bank, in 2009, about 42% of Africans had access to electricity. In comparison, emerging countries in Asia and Latin America had rates of 78% and 93%, respectively.