Friday, 30 June 2017

NATC's blog post is featured in the Bush Chicken

Our blog post by Haresh Karamchandani was featured in The Bush Chicken!! Yoo hoo! 🙌🏾 

We shared the blog post on the Liberia Expats Google Group and it was picked up by The Bush Chicken

Bush Chicken is dedicating this week to electricity so it's nice to have our experience be part of the various stories on infrastructure.

This encourages us to keep writing! 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

LEC Woes ⚡

by Haresh Karamchandani

The Liberia ElectricityCorporation is the only entity that supplies electricity to Liberia. No competition.

In the good old days before the war started, they had a fully functional Hydro-Electric Power station at Mount Coffee which not only supplied power to Liberia but also to the neighboring countries. The grid was well planned and laid out. Cables ran throughout the length and breadth of Liberia. I don’t remember owning a generator or hearing the hum of generator during those good old days. I also remember visiting the LEC stations in Bushrod Island, where they had huge turbine type generation plants, powered by diesel. These were used as a stand by just in case the hydro needed maintenance or had any breakdown, which was very rare.

The war came and brought along widespread looting, rampaging of the infrastructure. All the cables and towers were stolen and sold as scrap which was shipped out by the ship load to metal scrap hungry countries. The hydro power station was bombed, burnt, looted. Completely destroyed.

As the war ended and peace times began, things normalized, and generators became the norm. Every business, household, had to install a generator in order to have electricity. Some smart business people installed huge generators around town and ‘supplied” current at exorbitant prices.

Recently, the hydro has been rehabilited at a cost of several hundred million dollars. One can see new infrastructure, cables, poles all over the country, but alas the LEC woes continue.

I wish to narrate what we have gone through recently.

We had a single phase meter installed by LEC to supply current to our residence on Randall street.

The breaker kept tripping, and also on 2 separate occasions the meter burnt out. We would write a letter to LEC Commercial Department and follow up on a daily basis and within about a month they would come with a replacement meter.

After the meter got burnt out for the third time in less than a year, the LEC advised that we should apply for a 3-phase meter as possibly the single phase meter is unable to handle the load from our airconditioners. We promptly applied and started following up on a day to day basis.

Initially, we were told that they do not have new 3 phase meters in stock and have ordered them and are waiting for delivery. After waiting for a month, we finally were able to strike a deal with an LEC official who said they could help. The meter came the same day and was installed. But it was not as easy as that.

Even though we had a brand new 3 phase meter, we did not have electricity. The LEC crew said that there was an issue with some phases in the main line that would need to be fixed, before we could start getting current. I had accumulated a few telephone numbers of LEC field men and kept pestering them daily. Finally, one day they came and rectified the problem and after “tipping them $200.00” our LEC at home was restored.

Last night, the LEC went off, and came back on after 30 minutes. But no, it did not come on properly. Only 2 phases are working and the 3rd phase is reading 22v only. Half the house does not have electricity.

Back to square one? Well, yes, this is Liberia. I have written to LEC and will start calling them up until they can come and fix the issue. Till then we will have to use our back-up Generator, which is another story altogether.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Dear Reader:

On February 15th 2017 we received an email request for proposal from International Foundation For Electoral Systems (IFES Liberia) for supply and installations of V-sat internet links for internet services at 19 (Nineteen) National Elections Commission Magistrate offices in Liberia. It was such an exciting news to hear.

1.       Lower Montserrado……… Brewerville
2.       Grand Cape Mount……….Robertsport
3.       Bomi County…………………………….. Tubmanburg
4.       Gbapolu County………………………...Bopolu
5.        Montserrado County……………….. Bentor
6.       Magibi County…………………………...Kakata
7.       Bong County…………………Totota
8.       Bong County………………..Gbarnga
9.       Nimba County…………….Saniquille
10.   Nimba County……………Tapita
11.   Grand Gedeh County……..Zwedru
12.   River Gee County…………….. Fish Town
13.   Maryland County……………… Harper
14.   Grand Kru County…………… Barclayville
15.   Sinoe County………………………. Greenville
16.   River Gee County……………………………... Cestor
17.   Grand Bassa County………………………….Buchanan
18.   Lofa County………………………………………Voijama
19.   Lofa County……………………………………..Kolahun

In the absence of the Head of Operations and CEO, I held two important meetings along with my technical team with IFES and NEC on challenges or issues we may face with equipment and, how to go about resolving them with one understanding between the two parties since traveling in the rural and remote areas in Liberia is a challenge by itself.  Our timeline was delivered and all discussions went well.

We contacted our provider in Israel GILAT SATCOM Ltd. and provided them with the geographical coordinates for all 19 sites, total bandwidth required for all sites, iDerect X3 & X1 modems serial numbers etc. Immediately we received all IP addresses, Sites ID and Option files to be loaded into the moderns to activate these links. 

Now the deal was ready but all equipment was not available so we had to contact a local distributed/supplier but the deal didn’t go well in purchasing these equipment.

The timeline given to IFES/NEC was drawing closer every day, so we had to contact other suppliers from Nigeria. Our Head of Operations had just returned from his short break in a few days and quickly arranged me a ticket to fly with Air Cote d’lvoire and handed me the contact details of suppliers. The next day I took off for Nigeria and meet with the suppliers. Mr. Rasheed (V-SAT Specialist), a colleague to one of our old business partner (Tunde Kashimo) and Jimtop Nigeria Ltd. This tells you the good working relationship we have almost everywhere.

Due to flight delay in Ivory Coast, I arrived 11-12 A.M, Murtala Muhammed International Airport. Contacting the booked hotel was difficult. Traveling at night with such a huge a cash with an unknown hired taxi cab was dangerous even though he didn’t know I had such. There is a say… ‘’Prevention is better than cure’’. 

While driving from one street to another, I spotted a hotel called Atlantic Hotel and asked the driver to drop me there. I did the calculation from Naira to Dollars and pulled out his payment from my wallet and paid him in dollars. He handled his payment with smile and tried convincing me that the place would be very expansive maybe so we should continue calling until we locate the already booked hotel. My feet and luggage was already down so his tricks couldn’t hold me if that was his intension.

The next morning I phone Mr. Rasheed that I had arrived and needed to start business as soon as possible. He then reached me in a couple of minutes and phoned another supplier name unknown. His prices were very reasonable as compare to Jimtop. He asked us make 60% payment for an equipment that was only shown to us on WhatsApp. Saying his warehouse was locked up due to some payment he have to make. I couldn’t take that chance, which could be a scam so I had to cancel deal. I phoned Mr. Barode, Managing Director of Jimtop Nigeria Ltd. and located him on his address: 7 Unity Road, off Toyin Street, Ikeja, Lagos State Nigeria. From the glance of his office, equipment and transactions with customers, technically I was convinced. We had a brief discussion and then move on as planned. All equipment were brought out of stock, tested and packaged for payment:

  1.  14pcs Linear feedhorn 1.8m C-Band Dish
  2. 14pcs 5watts BUC C-Band
  3. 14pcs Norseat PLL 3220 LNB
  4.  1pc iDirect X3 Modem
  5. 2pcs power adaptors for X3 Modem
  6.  50pcs RG11 connectors
  7. 5pce of climbs for feed horn

Total of 50 Kgs was packaged and taken to my hotel room for departure the next morning. It was nice being in Lagos, the same state but different community where I did a training for deployments and installations ofThermographic Cameras here in Liberia during the Ebola crisis few years back. I returned to Liberia the next afternoon with all set to go. Our installations went well. I am was glad that we could finish up the project before the timeline.

Here at NATC, we are Professional, Efficient, and Proactive. Save yourself the stress and reach out for the best.

Prepared by:
Daniel Collins
Senior IT Technician
New Africa Technology Company