Local people are seen among the shops as daily life continues in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau on October 05, 2023.

Local people are seen among the shops as daily life continues in Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau on October 05, 2023.

Photo by Annika Hammerschlag/Anadolu via Getty Images.

Turkish Firm Cuts Power to Guinea-Bissau Capital Over Unpaid Bill

Guinea-Bissau's capital plunged into darkness as Turkish power provider takes drastic action.

A Turkish energy company, Karpowership, has disconnected power supplies to Guinea-Bissau's capital, Bissau, due to an unpaid bill exceeding $15 million (£12 million), leaving the city in a state of darkness and chaos. The power cut has severely disrupted daily life, affecting essential services, including radio stations that have gone off-air.

Economy Minister Suleimane Seidi has acknowledged the outstanding arrears and has expressed confidence that most of the unpaid bill will be settled within the next 15 days, with hopes of restoring electricity to the city.

Karpowership, renowned as one of the world's largest operators of floating power plants, serves as a critical source of electricity for several African nations. The company has taken a stern stance against non-payment, as evidenced by its recent power cutoff to Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, over an unpaid bill amounting to $40 million.

In a notable development, Karpowership has also entered into an agreement to supply power to South Africa, where it aims to address more than 5 percent of the country's total electricity needs. South Africa has been grappling with widespread power cuts, resulting in up to 10 hours of daily electricity shortages for its citizens.

The power supply disconnection in Bissau occurred following the prolonged accumulation of debt owed to Karpowership. Economy Minister Suleimane Seidi has committed to addressing most of the outstanding debt within two weeks to facilitate the restoration of electricity to the city. This episode underscores the financial challenges faced by many African nations in managing their finances and maintaining crucial services, such as electricity supply.

With a population of over 400,000 residents, Bissau has remained without power since the early hours of Tuesday. Some public hospitals have resorted to generators for essential surgical procedures, and media outlets, including state-run Rádio Nacional, have ceased broadcasting. Private radio stations are also experiencing disruptions, further compounding the crisis.

Karpowership asserted that it has been the sole provider of electricity to Guinea-Bissau, operating under a five-year agreement with the state-owned electricity and water utility company since 2019. A spokesperson for Karpowership, quoted by Reuters news agency, expressed regret over the situation, stating, "Unfortunately, following a protracted period of non-payment, our [floating power plant] is now unable to continue operating." The spokesperson added that efforts are underway to work with officials to resolve the issue and restore power generation as quickly as possible.

Following the power cutoff, Minister Seidi indicated that the company had "agreed to renegotiate with the government" to expedite the resumption of electricity supplies.

Karpowership also provides electricity to six other African countries, including Ghana, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Senegal. The company's unique distinction is its ownership, operation, and construction of the world's only Powership, or floating power plant.

Karpowership's involvement in the electricity sector serves as a testament to Turkey's expanding influence in Africa. Despite recent progress in increasing access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, the region still faces significant challenges, with over 50 percent of the population lacking access to a grid connection, as reported by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.