Late in 2022, ongoing efforts to provide solar power to the small village of Mthembanji paid off. Powering 60 homes, including small businesses, Malawi’s first solar microgrid covered areas that weren’t connected to our pre-existing power supply. The result, reported by the University of Strathclyde, was a fivefold increase in school success. Here, we’re covering the other benefits that can come from solar power grid installations.
Access To Information
With energy comes increased access to the internet and internet-enabled devices. This means that Malawians can access the largest collection of information that has ever existed. The benefits of information access vary, from lofty to trivial uses, all geared towards convenience.
For rural Malawians, energy can be used to power internet-enabled devices, which is a game-changer for developing nations. It means that adult Malawians can use the internet to learn, source remote job prospects, and pursue leisure. Entire industries exist online, on the foundation of readily available energy in their homes and places of business. One such example is iGaming, which allows card games like blackjack to be played through a screen. Internet-enabled energy infrastructure doesn’t just give access to those sites, it also supplies information surrounding their industry, like how to play blackjack. The internet can do this for a wide range of fields, hobbies, and industries.
This is already the case in Malawi’s more urbanized areas but rural communities lack the same infrastructure, and solar paneling closes that gap. Through enhanced energy access, Malwai’s rural areas can catch up to other nations in Africa when it comes to information access.
Increased energy access to rural and poorer Malawian communities also means they can communicate more effectively. This starts locally, through infrastructure that enables villages to communicate with one another and local authorities for logistics reasons. One example would be small businesses, that need to source supplies for their stores.
Then there’s the internet element. Besides being a treasure trove of knowledge, the internet also allows fast, near-instant communication between anyone with compatible devices. Businesses can use the internet to market themselves and even conduct business if their product or service isn’t a physical item. The communication potential of the internet levels inequalities between urban and rural centers, especially for those trying to start businesses.
As for normal people, they can engage with social media and keep in touch with friends and family who have moved to more successful, economically active areas. Social media websites have fascinated much of Europe, America, and Asia, and economically successful African nations like Nigeria. When solar microgrids allow rural Malawians to access them, they can communicate in ways never tried before.
Malawi is a small country on a big continent. However, Africa is waking up thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and accessible internet infrastructure, stimulating its economies. As a smaller nation, the internet and the ability to communicate with it allows Malawians to show off our country’s best features online and have their say in matters. On the internet, even a small country can make a big splash and show Malawi’s talent to the world.
This is already the case in Lilongwe, where the Malawi government and President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera have accounts on X (formerly Twitter), one of the world’s most influential social media sites.
Successful engagement with Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited, Blue Energy Africa, Natal East India Pty Ltd & Sizampilo Projects who are geared for big investments in Malawi’s mining, energy, agro-processing & infrastructure sectors. #InvestInMalawi pic.twitter.com/dBqSma9vBv
— Dr. Lazarus Chakwera (@LAZARUSCHAKWERA) August 22, 2023
Malawians in Lilongwe and other more developed regions can even access X and find weather forecasts. Part of that cultural footprint will include working online, possibly for those outside of their country and even the continent.
As solar energy in Malawi becomes more readily available, rural Malawians will benefit from the learning, communication, and culture-making opportunities that the internet provides.