Given the wild success of prepaid mobile phone service in sub-Saharan Africa, it was just a matter of time before the idea would be applied in other sectors. Congo's national electric company, SNEL, has embarked upon a pilot program for pre-paid electrical service in two Kinshasa neighborhoods, la Cite Mama Mobutu and la Cite Verte.
As Congo Blog notes (French), while the plan does eventually give residents the electricity for which they have paid in advance, the real problem is still SNEL's inability to deliver a constant current to Kinois residents. One Cite Verte resident, Maman Fifi, noted that her home only gets electricity two days per week.
Prepayment is a clever way to overcome a problem that plagues African utility companies: nonpayment of bills. But until infrastructure and delivery problems are overcome, it's unlikely to make much of a difference in the daily lives of the Congolese.