Meat Masters Butchery is one of the reliable sources of meat and meat products for the residents of Senti Township in Lilongwe.
This small business, owned by Lusako Manda, is expected to always provide meat and other meat products for sale to maximise revenue.
However, it must rely on a generator many times when electricity is not available due to persistent load shedding.
The cost of running a generator per day is almost five times more than using electricity supplied by the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom).
Says Manda: “There are times when we do not have electricity for about six hours and we have to rely on a generator to ensure our products remain in good condition. This is not only expensive but unsustainable.”
Limited access and unreliable energy in Malawi have constrained economic growth prospects and heavily affected the small and medium enterprises.
With electricity access rate at 11 percent, access to reliable energy is currently the most pressing need in Malawi.
“The problem is getting worse and I wish a solution was found sooner than later,” says Manda.
Electricity, water woes
Frequent electricity load shedding and rationing of water during certain critical times of the year are a common experience for many urban residents in Malawi.
Kamuzu Dam 1, which is one of the water reservoirs for Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), is under serious threat due to deforestation, animal grazing and agricultural activities. People cut trees to make charcoal for sell to residents of Lilongwe City.
Climate change has also worsened the situation. Water levels of the dam were critically low in two consecutive rainy seasons of 2014 and 2015 which led to rationing of water to the residents of Lilongwe.
Apart from climate change, water services infrastructure in the country also faces challenges caused by human behaviour.
Cutting down of trees and animal grazing have led to uncontrolled run- off increasing soil erosion that causes sedimentation and eventually damage the equipment.
The 12th edition of the Malawi Economic Monitor states that an insufficient investment in infrastructure and overreliance on public finance is at the core of poor energy and water services delivery.
It adds that the current generation capacity of about 485 megawatts (MW) will continue not to meet the demand, which is expected to increase to 719 MW by 2020; 1 873 MW by 2030; and 4 620 MW by 2040.
While water plays a critical role in Malawi’s economy and water-reliant sectors contribute an estimated 35 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), it still remains scarce.
The water resources are under threat from severe watershed degradation and climate change.
For example, LWB only manages to supply water to about 83 percent of the total demand leaving out the 17 percent of the city residents without access to safe water.
The board’s acting director of production and distribution Engineer Gustav Chikasema says that the challenges faced by the utility provider are due to infrastructure and human acts.
He says: “Our infrastructure is aging and performs below the required level despite making some improvements in the past years.
“Kamuzu Dam 1 was constructed in 1966 and is currently undergoing rehabilitation and upgrading.”
Chikasema says this is a second rehabilitation after first one in 2005.
“But these improvements still fall below the required capacity,” he says.
Unfortunately, limited access to water and sanitation has also aggravated the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in the largest urban centres where most public places, including schools and markets, lack basic hygiene facilities.
Improving service delivery in the energy and water sector will be challenging considering Malawi’s fiscal situation versus a growing infrastructure gap and the persistent poor performance of State-owned enterprises (SOEs).
However, World Bank country manager for Malawi Hugh Riddell says these challenges are not without solutions.
“The government has already made some key decisions, signaling its intent to undertake needed reforms to strengthen corporate governance and their performance, thereby increasing private sector participation in economic activities,” he says.