Explosions and Electricity

Just days before Christmas, people were once again killed by an explosion at a fueling station in Accra. The media has reported five deaths – a number that’s thankfully nowhere near the 150 killed during a similar explosion in 2015.

Sadly, the unfortunate incident was completely the result of human error claims the National Petroleum Agency. Two bolts that should have been fastened weren’t. Add plenty of pressure and you have a problem on your hands.

It’s almost amazing how central fuel is to life in Ghana. Sure, everyone needs it and countries like the United States keep oil and petrol at the centre of their foreign policies, but fuel and power is a big deal in Ghana. Gas for generators may have been the only thing holding the country together during the long, dark days of dumsor.

Without the ability to generate enough electricity for the grid, Ghanaians were in the dark for hours at a time for years on end. The result was a blow to the economy and the disillusionment with the government. Even the promise to end dumsor before the end of 2015 couldn’t mend the fragmented pieces of the economy, politics, and people… not even when it happened. Well, mostly happened.

There’s never just one reason why an incumbent president fails to secure reelection, but there are people that would bet that electricity is the absolute largest reason the polls swung the other way this month. Ghanaians just didn’t want to recover from the effects of dumsor – and they certainly weren’t given many tools to do so.

Although President Mahama plans to hand over a stable, peaceful government to Nana Akufo-Addo, that doesn’t mean Ghana is in the prosperous position it might have been if fuel and electricity hadn’t been such an issue. Though the economy is growing – especially in the services sector – it’s unlikely the country will reach its 2016 budget deficit target.

Still, despite the challenges, Ghana is looking forward to the New Year in a way that many countries simply cannot. There is the promise of incredible change on the wind.

At the very least, Ghanaians will be treated to an incredible fireworks display to ring in 2017. (Okay, those in Accra – at 7 pm on New Year’s Eve at the Junction Mall in Teshie.) It’s a sign that the country really is electric – which is better than explosive if you think about it.

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