Load Shedding to “have negative impact on most vulnerable”: Jesuit Scholars in Zambia

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The shutdown of electric power for hours in Zambia will have a negative effect on vulnerable Zambians and small business enterprises in the Southern African nation, officials of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) have said.

On January 1, the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) announced the commencement of a 12-hour daily rotational load shedding, increasing it by six hours amid a reported drastic reduction in water for electricity generation at the Kariba North Bank Power Station.

In a January 13 statement, JCTR officials say they are “concerned that load shedding will have a negative impact on the most vulnerable people in the country, especially given the high cost of living.”

They say vulnerable people will have a hard time seeking energy options, especially during the ongoing wet season. 

“Generally, the price of charcoal goes up during the wet season when the product becomes scarce due to the fact that wood takes longer to dry than it does during the dry. With few or no viable alternatives to charcoal, the commencement of load shedding will inevitably increase demand and affect commodity prices,” they say.


Officials of the Jesuit research institution based in Lusaka say they are “particularly concerned” about the plight of individuals running medium and small medium enterprises (MSMEs) such as saloons, barbershops, and welding businesses which rely heavily on electricity.

“The productivity of such MSMEs is likely to be greatly disrupted, potentially driving some of them out of business,” they say, adding that MSMEs contribute about 88% to the nation’s employment and supports the livelihoods of the majority of Zambians. 

JCTR officials say they are also worried about the consequences that load shedding will have on low-income households. 

The productivity of low-income households “may be reduced as a result of disrupted productivity, further limiting their ability to protect themselves from the high cost of living,” the Jesuit scholars say.

“This will restrict access to critical social services for human survival and development,” they say.

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Load shedding, the Jesuit scholars in Zambia further say, “has the potential to reverse the gains made by the government over the last year. This will impede economic growth and limit post-pandemic recovery in the face of climate change, the Ukraine war, and the debt crisis.” 

Officials of the Zambia-based institution say the government “must act quickly to address this energy problem” in order to prevent the economy from slowing down and to safeguard the most vulnerable households in the Southern African nation.

In an attempt to offer a solution to the challenge, JCTR officials say the “government could therefore consider cutting exportation of power or adopting short-term importation of power to help reduce load shedding hour. This is important in preventing the most vulnerable households from falling into poverty.”

Zambia needs to reduce its overdependence on hydropower, they say, adding that because hydropower “is still in danger from the effects of climate change, the government must start investing heavily in other energy sources.”

“It is crucial to adopt a well-thought-out strategy to increase and diversify the energy-producing capacity by actively embracing alternative renewable energy sources,” the Jesuit scholars say.


Adopting renewable energy is equally emphasized by Pope Francis in his Encyclical on the Care for our Common Home, Laudato Si' they say in their January 13 statement.

The continue, “To enable expanded production of alternative clean energy, the government must support the private sector by waiving taxes, providing subsidies, and offering incentives. This is crucial for reducing the grid's overstretching caused by rising demand.”

JCTR officials further say that the Zambia Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Energy “must also raise awareness of the current custom duty exemptions.”

To enable MSMEs to prepare better for the load shedding period, the Jesuit scholars say, “ZESCO must adhere to the load shedding timetable as the government searches for a long-term solution to load shedding.”

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.