A cross-section of entrepreneurs complained during interviews that, their efforts to establish processing industries were in vain because they had been forced to stop production frequently, at times for more than one day, due to power problems.
They pointed an accusing finger at the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) over failure to connect the region to the National Power Grid; as a result they relied on power sourced from abroad.
Sumbawanga Agricultural and Animal Food Industries Limited (SAAF) factory manager Dr Engelbert Bilashoboka said electricity was a big challenge in the region affecting production.
“Power from Zambia is not reliable. Sometimes they supply it with low voltage, which cannot run heavy machines. It’s a big challenge for residents living in this region,” he said.
According to him, the industry has two generators which consume about 10 litres of diesel per hour; something he said was too costly for a firm producing up market goods under competitive environment.
Dr Engelbert who was briefing a team of journalists on official tour to assess development initiatives and challenges, said despite unreliable power, the company paid Tanesco 8.9m/- per month.
“This problem is critical. It discourages manufacturers, as they fail to get guaranteed markets because electricity is not reliable. It is on today, off tomorrow. I call upon the government to look into ways of supplying Rukwa with reliable power,” he said.
For his part, Energy and Milling Company Ltd managing director Aziz Sudi said his factory needs high voltage power to run heavy machines, but the amount being brought in from Zambia had low voltage.
“The power being supplied here is mainly for domestic use, not for big industries like ours. For instance, we need electricity for pumping water when cleaning maize before milling. We cannot use generators to do that. It is too expensive,” he said
According to him, his company needs 100 litres of diesel per hour for running only one generator.
Meanwhile Sadrick Malila, who is Ikuwa General Enterprises Limited Managing Director, said the dream of building industries in the region would not be attained if appropriate steps were not taken to redress the situation. He said his processing factory can produce up to 10 tonnes of flour per day, depending on power supply in a particular day. “If your business is not reliable, it is very easy to lose customers,” he said.
Responding to the complaints, Tanesco Communications manager Badra Masoud said the company had already supplied the region fuel for running its generators stationed there, in an effort to reduce power shortage.