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Wandering nets and fuses

I guess this story actually belongs in my Uganda blog, but since I officially closed that blog down after I came back, I will post it here instead. This story, as so many other of my Uganda stories, has to do with electricity:

Some time after we returned from our Christmas holiday, we noticed that the main fuse at our house had disappeared. It had been replaced with a small piece of thick electrical wire that kept falling out, so we constantly had to go out and put it back in to turn the power back on. At first, we were under the impression that it had been stolen, and we even reported the theft to the management at the project. As it turned out, however, the fuse had indeed been taken, but it had not been stolen:

In Uganda, about 7% of the population has access to electricity. The government keep expanding the grid, though, and it is often used as a means to achieve political results. For instance I read in the paper about one county that got awarded electricity for having a ninety-something percent support for NRM, the ruling party. So the power grid is expanded, but the actual production capacity of the country's power plants is not increased accordingly. This is one of the reasons behind the ongoing power crisis.

Another effect of this practice is a shortage of fuses. Now, in Uganda, you can't just go to a hardware store and buy yourself a fuse. There is a monopoly, so only the electricity company is allowed to distribute fuses. But there are not enough fuses for everyone, so if someone orders a fuse, they might simply go and collect one from one of the neighbouring houses. So apparantly, our fuse had simply been given to someone else in town, and so they just keep changing them around. In that way, everyone gets to use the fuse, albeit not all the time.

We had a similar experience at the Blue Mango hotel in Kampala. The Mango offers simple but reasonably priced accomodation in dorms, and it is popular with backpackers. We stayed there every time we went to Kampala. At our infield course, we stayed there for about a week, and we were able to observe something strange about the mosquito nets in the dorms.

The mosquito nets were not all very good. Some had big holes in them; others were very small. The first night I got one of the really small ones, so I went to the reception to complain the next day. In the evening I was satisfied that they had indeed given me a new one, but as it turned out, they had only actually moved it two beds down. And so every time someone complained, the small net was moved around. In this way the hotel staff manage to keep their guests reasonably happy. I mean, so not everything is not top notch, but at least when you complain, something happens, and anyway at eight dollars a night, what can you expect? And most people only stay for a couple of nights anyway, so they would never notice.

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