While the country is reeling from the negative effects of prolonged electricity load shedding, affecting output for industries, some local businesses seem to be profiting from this development.
In recent months, Malawians have felt the full impact of Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi’s (Escom) power rationing so-called load shedding and have endured long hours of blackouts that are unleashing serious knocks on them, resultantly impacting on their businesses and livelihoods.
Fadwick Mukhiwa and Justin Leviyo are vendors plying their trade outside Limbe Market in Blantyre.
On any given day, life is tough for them as they have to sell enough wares to raise money to feed their families.
But the days have turned brighter for the two since Escom’s power cut, occasioned by low water levels in Shire River, the source of 90 percent hydro power generation, began.
For the pair, the persistent blackouts that have hit Malawi over the past months, have been the proverbial silver lining in the dark cloud.
Mukhiwa, 32, sells an assortment of goods in Limbe Bus Depot. Among his most prominent goods are a couple of torches that he flaunts around like a prized asset.
The outspoken hawker has been plying his trade in and around Limbe for the past 15 years. He does not shy away declaring that the relentless power outages are a blessing in disguise.
He says: “My take home income for the day has drastically increased ever since I included lighting devices to my selling list. Blackouts annoy the majority, but they are certainly a joy to me as I know this means more sales for my lighting devices.
“With an average of eight lamps that I sell, costing between K300 and K4 000, my business has picked up and because of this, I have bought a piece of land on which I am building a house,” he explains.
For Leviyo, 26, whose stall is located at the Limbe Market entrance, there is no better time to make money from selling torches than when the national power utility is rationing the supply.
“This business depends on people’s preferences and it is no secret that lighting has become people’s preference in this period where blackouts have become talk of the day. Other than the usual items such as exercise books, razor blades and glasses, I thought bringing lamps to meet the growing demand was imperative for my business.
“On a normal day, I sell not less than five lamps which gives me between K7 000 and K10 000, which is enough to provide basic needs for my children and live a normal life,” he says.
Petty vendors are not the only businesspeople that have sensed an opportunity to make money from Escom’s inability to supply adequate power.
Escom has an installed power capacity of 351 megawatts (MW), and because of low generation capacity, power supply has reduced to around 230MW.
All over Limbe, Blantyre’s commercial hub, scores of Chinese and Asian shops seem to have suddenly realised that power banks, solar gadgets, torches and an assortment of associated items have become the new gold.
Scores of shops in this teeming town now proudly adorn these gadgets that glitter from afar to draw customers’ attention.
A walk down any street in the crowded trading municipality—from Market Street to West Street and Customs Road—points to a new and vigorous love affair with these solar and battery- powered lighting devices, a new-fangled affection that is reflected in one of every three shops.
Vijay Dessai, a trader of Asian origin in Limbe who operates a shop near Kapenga Bus Stop, says his business is flourishing on the back of lighting devices that he added to his list of goods.
And customers’ preferences for the non-electricity based devices stems from their functionality and economical advantages.
Thokozani Mkwezalamba, a Chinyonga resident, says she finds the lamps safer as compared to using candles.
“I no longer have to spend money to buy candles every day,” she says.