Keeping Yemen in the Dark Ages

Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, is growing by 8 percent per year — one of the fastest growing cities in the world — yet it draws pow

SANA'A, Yemen — Mohammad Said Ali spends the money he makes repairing electronics during the day on his family's dinner at night. He has no extra savings, no rainy day fund, so when daily power outages shut down his one-man repair shop — the entirety of which could fit snuggly in the backseat of the average American sedan — for an hour, or sometimes four or five hours at a time, he and his family are in trouble.

"When the electricity is off, it is death for my business," Ali said. "If a new customer comes and asks for me to fix something, I have to say no — and give away half my day's salary."

For Ali and many other small business owners, Yemen's severe and worsening electricity shortage is more than just an inconvenience. It's a financial catastrophe.

The cause of the electricity shortage is simple: Yemen's rapidly expanding population, combined with the explosive growth of Yemeni cities thanks to internal migration, has outstripped the capacity of the nation's decades-old diesel and steam power plants. Sana'a, the nation's capital, is growing by a staggering 8 percent per year — making it one of the fastest growing cities in the world — yet the capital region draws power from virtually the same sources it did 20 years ago...

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