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Eritrea: The Passion of Spreading Social Services

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“If with what we do each time, we add a small piece to the big mosaic of a prosperous future of our country, then I, personally, won’t say I am ever tired.” Mr. Alem Bereket

In one of the series of articles published last month in Eritrea Profile, under the heading #UnderstandingEritrea, I wrote about Eritrea’s intent to expand its supply of electricity nationwide. While visiting development projects, we met Mr. Alem Bereket, Director of Adi Halo’s Power Station. Mr. Alem and his team are responsible for supervising the provision of energy produced from generators, solar farms, and power from the National grid. Half of the power generated from the Logo solar farm is used in the surrounding area while the other half is sent to Asmara’s distribution board. According to Mr. Alem the station was upgraded in a short time to handle the steady increase of power generated. However, what made our conversation most memorable was the teamwork of seniors and juniors at the site. We spoke to Mr. Alem in order to understand better their work ethic.

We are here at the Logo pilot project generator site. What do we have here?

Welcome to our quarters. This site was established as soon as the project began with the construction of the dam, which was later made to include development plans that are in line with the overall vision of the national framework for the development of our country. The plan of the Logo Dam is a multi-faceted development scheme that proved to be effective and exemplary. The provision of electricity, in line with other objectives, has been successful and extremely effective. We have solar farms here, and we manage the supply of electricity generated from the farms, our generators, and the national grid. We supply power to nearby villages and towns. We assist many projects under the Logo development pilot project and we redirect the excess energy to the Asmara distribution board. We assist farmers to modernize farming and provide energy to the workshops where thousands of youth are being trained and to development projects. My colleagues and I supervise it all. The power station has gone through a series of upgrades. As you can see, we are equipped with all the required latest gears to generate and supply power.

So you don’t supervise anything outside the power plant?

No, we do. Our network is vast and well managed. We do not restrict our objectives to the Logo pilot project alone. In fact, our branch is responsible for providing power to places outside the pilot project. We install big generators in remote areas of our country where there is no electricity. We have upgraded generator stations and have lit up towns and villages in the Southern Red Sea region as well as in other parts of the country. For example, recently, we’ve upgraded Assab’s generator site by installing two new generators of 1600 KWs. We have also done the same in Adi Keih, lighting up Akuney and Senafe. Our branch has installed new plants and upgrade existing ones and in the past three years. The plants are maintained and supervised by our branch.

You are the director of the unit and you keep referring to your office as “we”. Who else is part of your venture?

This is not office work. The undertaking is intense and requires hard work and dedication. And unless the workforce works as one, we can’t guarantee work efficacy. That being said, here at the Logo generator and switchgear site, we have many young professionals who have joined us from different schools. I rightfully say “we” because the work here is done by my colleagues whom I have had the pleasure of working with ever since they joined us. Here, it’s all about sharing ideas and experiences. Our young here are very well educated and that gives us, the seniors, the opportunity to gain more knowledge. In return, we share with them the knowledge and passion we have had over the many years of work.

Can we get to know you at a personal level? Who is Alem?

I am an electrician. I fell in love with the science of electricity when I was a child. Growing up, I had many family members and friends who helped me pursue my passion. At school, anything that had to do with electrical science was my favorite and also my forte. That is how I grew up. Then I went to Sawa and later had to join the army in the war over the border dispute. My professional endeavor as an electrician began after that. I have been serving my country and people in different capacities all related to the power supply. I worked at the Ministry of Defense’s Track B power workshop, and then was assigned to the Logo Power Plant Project as the director of the generator and switchgear site. That’s all there is to me.

What is electricity to you?

The one and only greatest invention that triggered the rest of the great inventions in human history! But if I am to speak as an electrician from a developing country, I would define electricity as a driving force of the development of a society. In Eritrea, with this in mind, the People and Government have been working to ensure the provision of sustainable social services in all parts of our country. We need electricity for all of our children to study and become contributing members of our community. No one is to be left behind. We need our people’s lives to get better. And we need electricity for all aspects of our daily lives. Therefore, my colleagues and I have been working hard and will work even harder to make this a reality.

What has been your greatest passion as an electrician working in a developing country?

Two things — seeing remote parts of our country being lit up and sharing my experience and passion with younger Eritreans.

Can you elaborate?

Let me start with the first point I made. Eritrea is a country on the road to development and assisting in the process with the little I have is extremely rewarding. The sentiment we feel when we travel far to set up generators and network power supply lines are beyond imaginable. We have gone to places where young children had never seen electricity before.