Nored’s oldest employee takes stock

By Uushona Uugwanga
March 2013
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Northern Regional Electricity Distributor (Nored)’s oldest employee, Paul Shilongo, is one of a kind.

At 55, Shilongo has been at the company since its inception ten years ago. He has steadily climbed up the corporate ladder to become its senior technical manager, heading the department of technical services.

For a man who was involved with the labour pains of a new company, the first in southern Africa, Shilongo and the Nored journey are inseparable.

He was a supervisor at the Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing - in charge of rural electrification - before his Nored stint. He was instrumental in setting up the rural electrification strategic plan and its implementation as from 1991 to 1996. Therefore, his move was nothing he could not handle.

After the 1997 commercialisation of the electricity department, I moved to the Ministry of Labour where I worked as a factory inspector before being promoted to chief inspector of occupational health and safety. Come January 2003, I joined Nored where I have worked to-date.

“Before Nored, there was a private company distributing and supplying electricity in north-west and north-east Kavango called Northern Electricity. Government realised it was losing millions of dollars on it, so it gave the company a five-year contract to determine whether or not it could improve in revenue collection from the unallocated and unregistered customers. The contract came to an end after the five-year period mandate and that is when Nored was established,” explains Shilongo.

Today, Nored is an energy provider to seven northern regions of the country such as Caprivi, Kavango, Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena, Cunene and Oshikoto. It has also established itself on the world map as a reliable energy supplier through its excellence performances.

Notably, Namibia has three REDs and one company countrywide: Nored - which is Namibia’s biggest regional electricity distributor - Erongo Red, Cenored and Southern Electricity Company (SELCo).

As such, more than 60% of the inhabitants living in northern Namibia have access to electricity and the company is looking into increasing its target of 90% in the near future.

Shilongo’s technical department now focuses on reaching out to people who live in remote areas where electricity has never reached, especially since independence (before and/or after 1990).

“After Nored was established in 2002, there were a lot of challenges such as looking after old and dilapidate infrastructures, expansion of network in local authorities as well as in rural areas. However, Nored, together with the Ministry of Mines and Energy, has since created more infrastructure. We want to make sure that nobody is left in the dark in future,” adds Shilongo.

Shortage of financial resources and skills at Nored is something that Shilongo says needs serious attention, since the demand for electricity in rural and urban areas alike, is high.

“This shortage of technical personnel is a concern not only at Nored but in other REDs as well. Instead of employing more inexperienced people, our company has strategically adopted a better and convenient approach of outsourcing private contractors to ease some of the pressing work such as construction of new lines and substation. Some of these contracts are for a short period of time while the company looks into training Namibia’s own for the long run. It’s a huge problem,” he says.

According to Shilongo, Nored existed for five years before other REDs were established: “This means we have more experience and know-how. We are located in regions that are poor in revenue collection because there are no industries to make revenue stronger and that is a big challenge. Only Nored among other reds who does provide subsidised households, cuca shops within 50 metres of a single phase supply. Our tariffs are lower because it’s more in areas that are densely populated by low-income earners.”

Born at Lino-Elim Village in Ukwambi District, Shilongo attended his primary education at Elim Missionary School before attending his metric at Ongandjera Secondary School in Omusati Region. He left Namibia in 1977 for Angola and then later headed to Zambia. He would soon take up further studies in the USSR (now Russia) where he obtained a bachelors degree in electrical engineering.

“I left Namibia because I wanted to play a part in liberating our country from colonial oppression. While in Russia, Shilongo had an opportunity to expose himself to other socialist countries governing the political structures such as the Germany Democratic Republic (GDR), etc. Upon return to Angola, Shilongo was deployed to work in Swapo Workers’ Brigade; a section of the structure that was placed under the Office of the President. It was responsible for projects in Swapo settlements both in Angola and Zambia. In 1987, I took up a post-graduate course in Zimbabwe for half a year before returning home,” he recounts. PF