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Escom needs K5 billion a year for free connections

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CHINGOTA—The actual number will depend on funding

State-run power utility supplier Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) has said it will need up to K5 billion a year to implement the free electricity connection programme when it rolls out.

Escom Public Relations Manager Kitty Chingota said the company wants to commence the programme within the current financial year, further indicating that doing so would be subject to funding.

“We are discussing with Mera [Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority] and the Ministry of Energy on funding for free connections. We have targeted about 10,000 [connections] per year. The actual number will depend on funding. The cost per year for 10,000 free connections is about K5 billion per year,” she said.

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Free water and electricity connections were one of the key campaign promises of the Tonse Alliance ahead of the June 23 2020 fresh presidential election which ushered in the current Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima administration.

In a separate interview, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) Executive Director John Kapito said raising the required resources should not have a bearing on consumers in any other way.

“I don’t know really if they [Escom] are able to do something social like that at no cost at all when they are struggling themselves failing to provide electricity throughout the day. We know that someone is going to pay and that will be the consumer.

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“We will not allow them to tamper with electricity tariffs in order to connect people when we are already paying for electricity connection through Marep [Malawi Rural Electrification Programme]. If anything, they can use Marep money because it is already meant for electricity connections,” Kapito said.

He went ahead to rate the free electricity connection option as a political move which might be costly.

In March this year, Escom confessed that it was failing to raise a top-up of K271, 800 for individual single-phase customers, saying a lot of people were waiting for connections long after making their contributions due to non-availability of materials.

In a statement dated March 22 2022, Escom said while individual customers contribute K93,200, the actual cost is K365,000 and that Escom contributes K271, 800.

“Escom is now allowing customers who are willing and can afford to procure materials required for a connection to do so as per terms and conditions,” the statement reads further, indicating that the arrangement was for those looking for quick connections but was not compulsory.

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