Despite having an estimated potential of 20 gigawatts of hydroelectric power, the second largest in Central Africa, half the population of Cameroon does not have access to electricity throughout the day.
Electricity cuts "have become very common in Cameroon, (living in) darkness is what Cameroonians have in common," Carlos Alain Tetchang, a 19-year-old university student living in Douala, Cameroon's economic capital, told Anadolu Agency.
He recounted how he suffered to pass his high school exams: "Every evening, I had the same fear – that the electricity will cut again. Every day I had to buy three candles in order to study."
Tetchang said he has grown accustomed to electricity cuts. "Cameroon has many dams but cannot use them wisely," he said.
Cameroon’s electricity problem has two roots: low production capacity and dams being left unexploited.
Joel Nana Kontchou, CEO of Eneo, said: "The electricity rate is even lower in rural areas."
Eneo is a private Cameroonian energy company, which monopolizes electricity production in the Central African state.
"The annual electricity consumption per capita is about 165 kwh. Meanwhile, it is 1,650 kwh in southern Africa," he said.
Out of the 22 million people living in Cameroon, only 976,000 are subscribers to Eneo.
"The energy supplied today is not stable and is frequently interrupted," Kontchou said. "The company plans to invest 447 billion CFA Francs ($810.9 million) over the next 10 years into its network."
According to Robert Soh Tangakou, an economist and lecturer at the University of Douala, "the huge hydroelectric potential available to Cameroon can significantly contribute to increasing the country's economic growth."
He believes that to satisfy Cameroon's electricity demand, Eneo must implement a series of measures.
"The state and the company in charge (Eneo) must complete the construction projects of current dams and diversify the production of energy, using solar in particular," Tangakou said.
"The government should especially promote smallenergy production while making sure that one company (Eneo) should not monopolize the sector," he said.
Tangakou added that the "hydroelectric potential of Cameroon can enable the country to reach its domestic demand and also export energy to neighboring countries such as Chad and the Central African Republic."
Tangakou said that Eneo’s promises to restore and expand dams in the country are not sufficient.
"They must diversify the sector by giving way to other companies," Tangakou added.
Reporting By Pado Chemie
Writing By Felix Nkambeh Tih