Some Malawi business operators have singled out frequent and unannounced power cuts as a major obstacle to the success of their businesses.
Superior Halaal Meats proprietor, Esa Arab, said the frequent power cuts in their branches remain a major challenge as their product is perishable and fully reliant on power.
The firm offers beef, chicken, fish, seafood, goat and lamb products both processed and unprocessed.
Bvumbwe Dairy Farmers Association has also shared the view, arguing that without power, they throw away a lot of milk.
Last year, the association disposed of more than 900 litres of milk which went bad because of intermittent power supply, but said Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) refused to compensate them.
“We get about 3 400 litres per day and all that milk can go to waste when there is no electricity. We then decided to invest in a gen set to run away from that,” said Liviet Nakoma, the association’s vice-chairperson.
Power has, for a long time, been a thorn in the flesh of businesses in Malawi.
The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) in its Malawi Business Climate Survey (MBCS) 2012 noted that unreliable power supply topped the list of the hurdles of doing business in the country with a score of 9.7 out of 10.
According to the survey, the persistent supply interruptions have led the private sector to become uncompetitive due to high costs incurred to operate a generator due to fuel supply challenges.
The MBCS noted that the contribution of manufacturing continues to decline because of electricity supply limits with the remaining concentrated in low technology and low-value products to minimise potential loss due to outages.
Further to that, the report indicates that inadequate supply of electricity has resulted in lack of export diversification and non-value added products.
MCCCI public-private dialogue manager Hope Chavula said major investment projects that require dedicated electricity supply have been shelved, including Glass Sands in Mchinji and Heavy Sands in Chipoka, among others.
Minister of Energy Ibrahim Matola said government has different programmes aimed at minimising the frequency of blackouts in the country.
He said the rehabilitation of Kapichira Hydro Power Project Phase II currently underway will boost the energy sector by adding 64 megawatts to the electricity grid.
“We are also looking at renewable energy to use solar and geothermal energy among others,” said Matola.
Available figures indicate that Escom has an installed capacity of 287 megawatts of power which is insufficient to meet the desired demand for industries and households.