Dr. Skaro Akena Selo (2023)

As of 2023, the country of South Africa finds itself 269.75 billion U.S. dollars in debt and is projected to rack up even higher red numbers in the coming years. No wonder, then, that Tzaneen-born artist Dr. Skaro’s motivation behind the feel-good track “Akena Selo” is to encourage listeners to persevere in the face of financial hardship.

While many factors contribute to South Africa’s current financial troubles, the energy crisis is one of its most telling examples: Traffic lights, phone lines and anything else running on electricity is rendered unusable to the population for several hours each day due to systematic shut-downs of the power network. Ironically, this so-called load-shedding is necessary to keep the country’s electricity network from collapsing altogether.

South Africa’s power grid was first built in the 1920s to supply the newly founded state with nationally sourced, coal-based power. The power plants were, in accord with South Africa’s socialist mind-set, all owned by a single state-owned company: Eskom. This worked quite well throughout the 20th century, but as the new century approached, it became clear that Eskom’s available resources would be maxed out by 2007.

But until well past 2007 and into the 2010s Eskom—by law—remained the only company producing energy for South Africa, all while producing too little of it to meet demands. And so in order to keep the overloaded network running, the concept of load-shedding was introduced.

While South Africa has been trying to fight the ongoing crisis with privately owned power and renewable energy, load-shedding goes on to cause logistical and financial problems—something that surely contributed to last week’s seismic event of the ANC losing the majority vote in the South African elections for the first time since it came into power 30 years ago.