Dumsor comes from the twi words for lights off; dum sɔ, which means ‘off on’. The way we talk about weather in Sweden with everyone we meet we now talk about dumsor in Ghana. The endless number of conversations I’ve had with people in taxis, at the station, wherever I go…
For the past year people in Ghana have been struggling, the power situation has been miserable and there is still not enough electricity to cater to the whole country simultaneously. The crisis began three years ago, but has escalated recently. During the fall last year the schedule was 12 hours off, 24 hours on, shifting the electricity between different areas. When I came back after having spent Christmas with my family in Sweden the schedule had (unofficially at first) changed to 24 hours off and 12 hours on. It was unbearable. No food would last because the fridge couldn’t keep the cool for that long and everyday involved a mission to charge phones and laptops and find functioning Internet.
I usually don’t know whether to hope for electricity during the night, so I can keep my fan on and actually sleep well, or if I should hope for electricity during the day so I can charge my laptop and get work done. Before I used to go to nearby restaurants, cafes or Internet cafes, but many places have now switched off their plugs or just don’t allow you to charge your appliances, I guess the generator costs are getting too expensive. There was an Internet café near my house where I used to go, but they haven’t been open in the past months.
Worse than my own misery is of course how all of this is affecting the country and the economy. Small entrepreneurs selling food items are losing all their assets when their merchandise is spoiled after days without lights. Entire families are falling sick from food poisoning when the food gets spoiled when the fridge is not running. People are calling in to radio stations, crying because they’ve lost everything and are indebted, with no prospect of earning back that money. International companies are looking to escape the country when project costs are getting too high, leaving more people unemployed.
It’s hard to see how this is going to be solved within the near future, but people are starting to protest and make their voices heard. Last Saturday there was a protest march in Accra, gathering thousands of people. Let’s just hope and pray that there will be change soon and that we won’t have to wait until right before the next election (in 2016).