9 January 2019

Tanzania: Isles Record Admirable Success in Rural Electrification

MANY villagers are happy about the power situation on the islands.

Electricity has reached almost every village, after a successful project, implemented last year to connect more villages and small islands to the national grid.

Zanzibar Electricity Corporation (ZECO) authorities say the success to have more villages connected to electricity was driven by commitment to respond to the growing demand for power by people and the implementation of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) 2015/2020 manifesto.

"We worked tirelessly, in 2018 and hope to do the same this year (2019) so the remaining villages are connected to the national grid," Mr Hassan Ali Mbarouk- General Manager of ZECO said during an interview with the 'Daily News'.

He said 2,695 out of 3,260 villages in Unguja and Pemba including villages in small inhabited Islands, which had no electricity before, now have the energy, and many people have been applying to be connected.

Only two out of ten small inhabited islands are still without electricity, the rest (including Fundo Island was connected to national grid two months ago) Mr Mbarouk said that soon all areas occupied will be connected to electricity.

The islets already connected to electricity include Uzi, Tumbatu, Kisiwa-Panza, Makoongwe, Uvinje, Mwambe, and Kojani, speeding up development programs in respective villages.

Despite slow and low returns after investing in ruralelectrification, the government through, ZECO is committed to seeing that all villages have reliable power supply.

As one of the major means in fighting poverty and speeding development in the country.

ZECO services improved in 2018 than ever, the General Manager says, for example in the past application and electricity connection took three months or more, but now the exercise only takes two weeks.

"The number of People applying for power connection has grown from about 50 to more than 200 monthly, and the connection include use of pre-paid automated energy metres to ease power billing," the manager said.

ZECO says 83 percent of the villages now have the electricity or connected to the national grid.

While 90 percent of its 170,000 customers use the automated energy metres best known as TUKUZA (Tumia Umeme Kwa Uangalifu Zanzibar).

However, the management says illegal electricity connections and pilfering of copper and aluminum cables by thieves who sale it as scrap metal or other use, are problems still faced by ZECO, calling for public support in protecting the infrastructure by at least exposing the criminals.

Other challenges are: delays in paying bills by some government institutions; debt it owes Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (TANESCO), its only supplier; and frequent replacement of transformers due to failure caused by increasing use.

Mr Mbarouk said that electricity bill payments centres will be increased particularly in rural areas, but "The contract between ZECO and centre Maxcom Africa limited, Tanzania for electronic payment that will ease payment for customers in all areas in Zanzibar."

He said the demand for power has been growing because it is one of the major drivers of the growth of economy and social development and that the electricity consumption has increased from three megawatts in 198 0s to the current 7 6 megawatts, "a lot of things now need electricity."

Mbarouk said "Electricity means development because of its multiple use.

The lives of several Zanzibari's in villages are being transformed because of power connection, empowering them."

Mr Salum Abdallah- ZECO Public Relations Officer (PRO) said rural electrification has been going on well and that efforts to provide electricity to all villages, have historically been, hampered by insufficient resources.

"We are working hard to ensure all villages easily receive electricity in their location," said Mr Abdallah adding that the progress in Zanzibar since 2010 had been impressive with the hope reaching all villages by end of this year.

He said with the availability of power people start small business like making sweets, bites, use refrigerators to store goods like seafood's and mineral water, which "means that when electricity comes, people usually get engaged in small businesses and also buy TV sets and that totally changes their lives.

The PRO says although people still experience impromptu power cuts, the electricity supply from the National Grid, mainland is more reliable than before, and people are happy.

"TANESCO remain our main and only power supplier of electricity through Dar es Salaam to Unguja Island and Tanga to Pemba Island," he said that studies are still underway to find other viable sources of energy.

Studies have been done on renewable energy, to produce power from sea waves (very expensive project), wind and solar, "But we still believe hydropower is still more reliable and we will definitely be more stable in electricity supply should the ongoing Oil and Natural Gas exploration bear-fruit."

As more homes get connected to electricity, Mr Hassan Mussa, a father of eight children in Kojani small Islands is among the happy people to power in their villages.

He said he is saving money to have his house connected so that "My children can study at night."

"For many years we asked for power, fortunately our prayers have been answered.

People are doing a lot with electricity," Mussa said with hope of ending the error of relying on kerosene and firewood as sources of energy.

President Ali Mohamed Shein had in the past promised that his regime would connect all villages to the national Grid as one of the crucial ways to fight poverty and also save the country from environment degradation.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Bank (WB) as quoted in the 'The-beam-magazine' almost one year ago, there are about 1.06 billion people living without access to electricity across the world.

The statistics mean that once in every five people, most of them living in rural Sub- Saharan Africa and South Asia, rely on kerosene, candles, and battery torches for essential lighting.

It says therefore having electricity in rural areas, boosts their local economy, provides jobs and contributes to the growth of a power grid based on renewable energy not fossil fuels, and rural areas are the place to go for success.

The analysis finds that providing reliable and sustainable access of electricity to families living off-the-grid is essential and comes with many benefits.

Light in the evenings could help between 142,000 and 2 million children to study at home, contributing to a higher level of education.

A health clinic that has reliable electricity would presumably provide better health services and outcomes to the community it serves and that burning less kerosene or firewood/ charcoal indoors to cook, would improve the family's health.

Bringing electricity into a remote household reduces the family expenditures for energy services (such as kerosene and mobile phone-charging costs) that can be replaced by direct electricity access.

It also gives the family more time, due to electric lights and other appliances, which results in improvements in education, health, and communications; and it surely enhanced the productivity and income levels of the household.

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