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Congo switches off to watch the World Cup

Residents of DRC asked to turn off everything other than TVs so power grid can cope with demand of football fans.

Last updated: 24 Jun 2014 11:48
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The national electricity company has set up 16 large screens across the country [AFP]

World Cup fever has forced the Democratic Republic of Congo's national power firm to tell customers to switch off everything but the TV, so that there is enough electricity for everyone to watch the games.

Even though The Leopards - Congo's national side - did not qualify for the tournament, football fans across the nation crowd around TV sets for each match, putting the country's creaking power grid under strain.

The national electricity company, SNEL, asked customers on Tuesday to turn off as many things as they could - including fridges, cookers and lights - so the country did not suffer blackouts during match times.  

SNEL representatives also appear on state television before matches to ask viewers to turn off all unnecessary devices.

The DRC has a very limited power supply, and just nine percent of Congolese has access to electricity. The country's main hydroelectric power station, at the Inga dam, is in disrepair and power cuts are common across the country.

Eric Mbala Musanda, SNEL's managing director, said: "We have limited supply compared to the demand, but there are many ways to find a balance. If the demand is high compared to the supply, we have to find ways to bring down the demand."

The request has annoyed some in Kinshasa.

"We don't understand how ... we are being asked not to put our lights on at home, not to use our fridges or anything electronic in our homes," said Michel Wandji. "They are simply skirting their responsibilities."

But others have welcomed the decision. "During the day it's always good to switch off the lights, so that you can conserve power," said Fabrice Mayama.

SNEL has also set up 16 large screens in towns across the country and promised another 12 for the capital in an effort to allow people to watch matches in an energy-efficient way.

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