dealing with dumsor

How Ghana’s Millennials Are Coping with Frequent Power Outages

Accra, Ghana
12 / 2015

Irregular and unpredictable power outages, sometimes lasting for days on end, are so common in Ghana, the phenomenon has gained its own term in popular vernacular. ‘Dumsor’ (pronounced ‘doom-sore,’ Ghanaian for ‘off-on’) has a profound influence on everyday life. In 2015, the dumsor schedule of Ghana’s capital Accra went from 24 with light and 12 without, to 12 hours with light and 24 without. These long blackouts are in stark constrast with those in other countries, where short rolling blackouts keep the system from shutting down for longer.

The millennials in Accra’s creative industry, engaged in fashion, art and music, are finding their own ways of dealing with dumsor. As Nana K. Osei (graphic designer and social media manager) says: “For someone who works in an age of information, the week long blackouts (yes, in certain places it is that bad) kill the soul. Imagine Ghana being a plane that has enough fuel, passengers and able pilots ready to commence a fruitful journey and soar through the air, only to screech to an abrupt halt, because the flight crew took off the plane’s wheels and left a note on the hubcap saying ‘We’ll be back... Eventually.’ Dumsor is public enemy number one. A source of frustration, verbal diarrhea, disillusionment and endless humor. BBC Africa once asked Ghanaians on twitter to share their experiences with dumsor; their responses were some of the best satire I’ve read in a while. But the joke is on us. In many ways the people have adapted; dumsor is part of our ‘culture’ now. Even today, with the outages being decidedly less, businesses and individuals still reel from playing catchup from almost four years of rationed electricity.

Perhaps it is too early to know the definite effects of dumsor on this generation. For the youth in particular, a positive one seems to be a bit more determination, creativity and wisdom when it comes to making a cedi out of fifteen pesewas."