‘Electricity changed my life’

CYPRIAN Mwembe in his shop at Shantumbu market.

THE Rural Electrification Authority (REA) was established through the Rural Electrification Act No 20 of 2003 to implement the rural electrification programme in Zambia. REA’s work involves providing electricity infrastructure to rural areas using appropriate technologies.
When REA begins to implement a project in an area, the community becomes a home. The authority visits the area frequently, and just like a parent who comes home with goodies for their children, REA brings hope and change.
The nature of the job involves interacting with the rural communities. REA provides a valuable resource that contributes significantly to the improvement in the quality of life of the rural communities. However, REA does not take it for granted that the communities are well prepared for the change they will bring. Therefore it prepares them for the change they will later experience.
Cyprian Mwembe, 37, is a resident of Shantumbu village in Kafue district. He is an entrepreneur whose business has grown due to a constant supply of electricity.
There is something about Mr Mwembe, at first glance he is soft-spoken and shy but underneath that shy smile is a man who has gone against all odds to succeed.
He moved to Shantumbu to take care of his mother and started a photography business to sustain his family. From his earnings, Mr Mwembe raised K700 which he used to open a grocery store in 2008.
“My dream had always been to have many businesses and I knew if I worked hard the grocery store would help me raise more money to expand my business. However, it was difficult to run the business without a constant supply of electricity.
“I could not sell cold drinks or perishables and did not work late because I didn’t feel safe to walk to my house at night with my earnings from the shop,” he said.
REA connected Shamtumbu to the national electricity grid in 2011 at a cost of K1.3 million. The project powered Shantumbu market, Shantumbu Rural Health Centre and Shantumbu Primary School.
“Electricity has really helped me to live my dream. As I speak to you today, besides my shop I have four others which I rent out. I have also opened a metal fabrication shop,” he said.
Mr Mwembe has witnessed the value of his assets increase from K700 to K350,000. He has sponsored his children to school and lives a comfortable life through the earnings from his businesses. He has also bought three commercial plots which he intends to develop by 2018.
The Shantumbu project benefitted a catchment population of 11,000 with a total household capacity of 1,375. The market where Mr Mwembe’s shop is located has about 37 shops and 19 of them have been connected to the national grid.
Zambia, like many other African countries, still has low access to electrification rate. Brighter Africa reports that Africa’s energy crisis is the world’s worst. Africa accounts for 13 percent of the world population but 48 percent of the global population are without access to electricity. The only other region with a similar imbalance is South Asia with 25 percent of the world’s population and 34 percent of people without electricity.
Access to electricity provides an opportunity for people and economies to flourish. However, this is not the case in Zambia as the electrification rates are still very low.
According to the Central Statistical Office 2015 living conditions monitoring survey key findings, Zambia’s national electrification rates stand at 31.2 percent while urban electrification rate is at 67.7 percent and rural electrification rate at 4.4 percent. Rural grid connections stand at 3.7 percent while solar connections stand at 7.4 percent.
Electrification boosts gross domestic product because citizens can use the commodity productively. Businesses like Mr Mwembe’s do not have to use candles, lamps or generators which are not only expensive but also hazardous. The World Bank reports that about 4.3 million deaths are recorded in a year resulting from the use of wood and biomass energy.
Since 2004, REA has continued to pursue this robust agenda of transforming the rural population through the creation of an enabling environment emanating from the provision of various electricity technological options and infrastructure in rural areas.
For more information contact the Manager- Corporate Affairs, Rural Electrification Authority. Plot No. 5033 Longolongo Road
Private Bag E891Lusaka
Tel+260 211 241 301

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