Worsening Power Cuts show Height of Sudan’s Economic Challenge


In Sudan, frequent blackouts have become almost a normal thing for people across the country. Families and businesses in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities are being struck hard by this such power cuts. The blackouts often last all day, which has frustrated Khartoum and other Sudanese cities already dealing with 380 percent inflation and shortages of petrol, wheat, and other imports.

The power cuts have additionally increased the pressure on a transitional government that has received worldwide accolades for economic changes and negotiated a deal for massive debt relief, despite the fact that living circumstances have deteriorated.

According to a 2019 World Bank report, just roughly a third of Sudan’s almost 45 million people have access to electricity, yet demand for heavily subsidized energy is growing at an annual rate of 11%, faster than in most African countries.

No fast solution for power interruptions

Osman Dawalbeit, general manager of the government-owned Sudanese Electricity Holding Company, says the country faces an average shortage of 1,000 megawatts, owing to growing fuel costs. Sudan gets around half of its electricity from burning fuel and the other half from hydropower. But due to high fuel costs Sudan’s power plants, which are capable of producing 4,000 megawatts, are only running at 45 percent capacity.

The government has no fast remedy to the situation after inheriting an economy in turmoil with extremely low foreign reserves. Authorities cannot import enough gasoline or pay for power plant upkeep and spare components. Sudan’s under-resourced hospitals have also not been spared as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials admit that power interruptions have resulted in oxygen shortages and deaths.

As part of economic changes overseen by the International Monetary Fund, Sudan’s government lowered subsidies for greater energy usage levels this year. But despite this, the price for power remained far below production costs. Due to this, problems in financing fuel supplies, maintenance, and new power stations arose.

Adding on to Sudan’s problems is Ethiopia with its enormous dam. Ethiopia has been undertaking the construction of its dam on the Blue Nile. Completion of the dam will mean that Sudan will have to reduce its hydropower production, contributing to a deficit.

Efforts to solve power cuts problem

Sudan has however put in place several measures to ensure that it escapes its power problems. A debt deal for instance means Sudan could be able to access several billion dollars in new finance. Such finances will help greatly to alleviate the country’s foreign currency shortage.

Moreover, Sudan struck an agreement with General Electric last year to boost electricity generation by up to 470 megawatts. It also wants to expand imports from Egypt and Ethiopia, which are both neighbors. Sudan is also enlisting the help of business sector partners from the US, Germany, France, and Turkey. Solar power projects have also started in Alfasher, Aldeain, and Dongola following the arrival of the country’s first wind turbine.

In the meanwhile, residents continue to suffer. During the hottest months, temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) have pushed many people to their limits, leaving them unable to use fans or air conditioners.



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