Good, Bad and Ugly of Power Outages

Jun 1 , 2019
By Tsion Fisseha

Working a nine-to-five job, on top of various volunteer work, has taken a toll. By the time I get home, all I can think about is saying a brief hello to my parents, having some dinner and going to bed.

But since the power outage hit the nation last month, I have had to change my routine. It has been for the best. I go home early and spend time chatting with my family about how their day went and what ia new.

This is one of the few perks of being forced to live with electricity outages. As incompetence, poverty and underdevelopment would have it, households go dark for at least eight hours every day. There was no nature disaster like a drought or tornado, but citizens have the bad luck to make do without power for a portion of every day. This is a far cry from technological developments in power generation and distribution over the centuries.

A quarter of a million years ago, human ancestors gained control of fire. This is a stage in history that is considered significant in human evolution. People used fire to cook and stay warm, much as people without access to electricity in rural and urban areas whose turn it is to have a power shutdown do now. People back then also used it to protect themselves from wild animals.

Over about a century ago, Thomas Edison invented the bulb, which could be used in homes and industries.

In the 21st century, electricity has proved to execute the same function of the pre-historic fire but better. It helps people cook meals no matter how simple or how fancy. It keeps people warm, cozy and comfortable.

Despite being one of the earliest countries in Africa to aquire electricity as early as the late 19th century, Ethiopia has lagged far behind, and the current electricity rationing is just one example.

The populations of countries such as Ethiopia make up the 1.1 billion people across the world that still lack any access to electricity. Of course, this is a number that does not include people in areas that do not get consistent electricity, which is the majority of Ethiopians at the moment.

The power outage, as expected, has caused agitation and frustration among citizens. To say that households and businesses are being inconvenienced would be to understate the loss in time, money and productivity people are experiencing every day.

Sometimes, however, even the most disastrous events can lead to unexpected outcomes. The power shortage, no matter how unappealing it is, has brought the whole nation together through many different jokes and memes shared on various social media platforms.

This incident has shown us that despite the darkness, our willingness to hope for the better and laugh about it until it changes will carry us through the pain that we are forced to face.

Electricity has given the world a better way of living. Together with technological advances in other sectors, people have become more independent and individualistic. These two concepts obviously have their perks but they also have shortcomings.

The recent turn of events has stimulated the social animal in us. Having experienced the power outage, one cannot help but wonder about the metaphor it carries.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that,” Martin Luther King Jr. said.

Perhaps, the best way to deal with the inconvenience of the power outages is to see that the glass is half-full and the barrier to talking with one another has been removed.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 01,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 996]

Tsion Fisseha is a writer and head of foreign languages in the news department at a local TV station. She has been a part of a pan African poetry slam competition representing Ethiopia and is a member of a rock band entitled the Green Manalishi. She can be reached at

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