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SADC’s energy plan stumbles

“Let there be light in every home,” former Malawi President and SADC chairperson Joyce Banda declared when she took over the helm of the regional body in 2013.

However, her compatriots at Mbulumbulu Village in Nkhata Bay District northern Malawi, in this fish shaped nation of 14 million inhabits, disagreed with her all the way to the polling booth.

“We have heard this many times but nothing happens,” Akusensio Chisale said.

Chisale did not wait for Banda’s dream to become reality but instead reinvented the wheel by manufacturing his own electricity.

“I have been doing this since 2009,” Chisale, told Magaga Writes Again, adding that he has also taught some people in the area who are now doing it by themselves and connecting others.

Banda drew confidence of her “light in every home” mantra from the ambitious SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), which aims to deal with the  region’s deficit in roads, railways, ports, power supply, communication and water infrastructure to reduce the cost of doing business and make the region competitive.

“We are able to use this power for many purposes except cooking because it is inadequate for that,” said the area’s notably most skilled man.

Nevertheless, Chisale outpaced Banda when he found how to convert discarded refrigerator compressors to generate electricity and bring smiles to more than 200 families and other villagers.

Chisale and other similarly crafty and dexterous villagers have pioneered the use these and other junk metals to produce electricity from streams thereby chasing darkness from homes, Pubs, Shops and other business entities.

Scouring for scrap metals and discarded refrigerators in urban areas and garages has become an almost full time job for these ‘village engineers’ in a bid to maintain power 24/7.

In Malawi, only nine per cent and one per cent of the population have access to electricity in both urban andrural areas, respectively despite Malawi signing a power deal with Mozambique under the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) in April 2013.

The members of SAPP have created a common power grid between their countries and a common market for electricity in the SADC region.

In the new deal both countries can either import or export to each other depending on excess.

However, currently Malawi is unable to export power because it has a deficit in its generation capacity hencefrequent load shedding programmes.

The country’s demand stands at 300 megawatts against production of 200.

Thus Malawians including Chisale booted Banda both as SADC chairperson and Malawi President when they voted her out during Malawi’s May 20 Tripartite polls this year for failing to among other things light their homes.

“The region has a power crisis. Collectively we are producing 50,000 megawatts against a demand of 54,000 megawatts,” SADC Director of Infrastructure and services Remmy Makumbe said.

Makumbe said the region would need not less than $100 billion to rectify the current deficit but did not indicate where such a colossal amount will come from.

“We have had problems with funding because member countries have financial constraints. But there are options…like the African Development Bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and other institutions which are willing to fund these projects ,” Makumbe told the media.

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