6 August 2009 – UMEME, Uganda’s electricity company, despite having recently received a $25 million dollar loan from the International Finance Corporation to help connect and electrify an additional 20,000 consumers per year, still battles against operational hindrances such as electricity theft. 

Less than 8% of Uganda’s 30 million people currently have access to electricity even though vast improvements in the efficiency of power distribution within the country have occurred, connecting over 100,000 customers since 2005.  This funding will be applied towards improving both the quality and quantity of service with particular focus on customer tracking and verification.

One of the most significant obstacles against assuring new and sustained access to power in Uganda is electricity theft.  Losses are currently accruing at 34% due to technical problems and theft, a figure which remains higher than in other electricity distributors in the region.  Measures are being taken to drastically reduce this figure via improved customer records and the expected completion of a customer verification process in 2009 enabling a full GPS record of every single line.  Over 1200 transformers have been renewed or installed and over 38,000 poles have been replaced in an effort to bring the grid up to international standards.

Such actions will help improve customer service and relations as a significant number of UMEME’s customers continue to complain about power inadequacies including intermittent power outages, surges and blackouts.  The hope is that the acquisition of a new customer billing system will facilitate the tracking of complaints so as to better respond to technical problems as they occur.  These loss reduction measures will help monitor and curb major issues like electricity theft and improve UMEME’s overall infrastructure and operations.