Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources and Mining has doubled funding and numbers of trading centres set to benefit from the Malawi Rural Electrification Programme (Marep) Phase 8, which has since been launched.
The funds to implement Marep, which seeks to increase access to electricity to rural and peri-urban communities to transform economies and reduce poverty, comes from the rural electrification fund.
Initially, government had set aside K16 billion to connect 122 trading centres nationwide, according to the Malawi Government Annual Economic Report of 2016.
However, the funding has been increased to K30 billion with over 360 trading centres expected to be connected to the national grid.
An official from the Ministry of Energy, Natural Resources and Mining said over 100 centres that require a dropdown transformer for electrification in order to increase access to electricity, will be connected.
With 85 percent of small and medium enterprises in rural areas, according to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, the move is expected to boost businesses in rural areas and help cooperatives preserve their products, including milk.
Some dairy farmers have been complaining that they lose milk due to lack of storage capacity and the availability of electricity.
Speaking during the Central Region launch of the Marep 8 programme in Ntchisi on Sunday, Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining Bright Msaka said government wants to see rural areas transformed with a lot of people able to conduct businesses either on their own or in cooperatives.
“It is a pity that 50 years after independence, some parts of Malawi have not yet received electricity. This is the case of Nthondo area in Ntchisi and I am saddened that one dairy bulking milking group was losing milk as it could go bad due to lack of power. As government, we will make sure that more rural areas are provided with electricity because it is a catalyst for development,” he said.
Member of Parliament for the area, Olipa Chimangeni, commended government for the move, saying electricity will transform people’s lives.
“We can now focus on other things because here many people are farmers with dairy animals and milk was going bad for lack of storage facilities. We believe that with electricity, even our school-going children will now have more time to study,” said Chimangeni.
A businessperson based at Nthondo Trading Centre in the district, Kalikokha Phiri, said people can now own fridges and sell drinks which are chilled.
“We used to drink warm soft drinks and beer because of lack of electricity, but now that will be history. We can now own fridges and our customers will enjoy better services,” said Phiri.
Malawi produces about 351 megawatts (MW)against the demand of 360 MW and government expects the availability of electricity to improve with the coming in of more Independent Power Producers (IPPPs).
Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining under the Department of Energy Affairs completed implementation of Marep Phase 7 Project in 2014/15 financial year.
A total of 81 targeted trading centers were electrified, including over 40 beneficiaries.