The beauty of these electricity blackouts is that they do not seem to segregate according to political parties. When there is no electricity in an area, it does not matter whether you support Democratic Progressive Party, Malawi Congress Party, People’s Party, United Democratic Front or any other political party. This is the hard fact and until we come to terms with the fact that the status quo in Malawi, our present politics, bitterness, vindictiveness, perception and manner of approach to our problems are unsustainable, we will not be able to turn around this country for the better and our children will look back to the time we messed it up for them and blame us forever.
Those of us who find solace in making excuses for the political class or our party leaders or present and past administrations should hide our faces in shame. The decision to move Malawi forward must begin with us and we cannot and should not waste time on petty political arguments which do nobody a favour.
To be honest, there has never been a year in this country when we have had proper supply of electricity even in periods when we are supposedly having a normal season. It is just that now we have graduated from epileptic supply to virtually zero supply of electricity. What is even more worrying for me is the fact that the minister responsible was on record claiming that he does not understand why Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) cannot provide the electricity Malawi needs. Seriously? I thought his principal secretary is an ex-officio on the Escom board?
The impression one gets is like no one in the government seems to be worried about the incalculable harm of these power outrages to the economy. Is it not scandalous that a nation that sits on nearly inexhaustible quantum of water, wind and sunshine is at the same time living in the darkest part of the earth? This is mainly because of the greed, avarice, ignorance, mediocrity and partisanship of its political establishment. Malawi lies prostrate on the ground.
It is beyond logic that we are, on one hand, promoting best buy Malawi and yet our companies cannot utilise and produce to their maximum capacity when every day they have over 10 hours of no electricity. Does it mean that those in power have decided to accord low priority to solving the problems? Truth is that no nation, including Malawi, can develop without sufficient electricity to power its infrastructure – electricity being the bedrock on which every and any other development project depends for sustainability.
It becomes even the more bizarre when you reckon with the fact that God has placed Malawi right in the tropics, which means that it can generate from renewable energy sector twice or even thrice the amount of power it needs with the right equipment and investment.Only God knows how many lives have been lost to the power crisis, how much financial loss we have incurred, the damage to the manufacturing sector and the economy generally and the discomfort to the people of this nation.
Irrespective of our political affiliations, the facts are that the current power infrastructure cannot support the purported 5.1 percent 2016/17 economic growth forecast let alone the level of economic growth being hoped to attain the Sustainable Development Goals without effectively increasing supply of electricity by at least 1,000 megawatts (MW) in the next 15 years. This country does not even have a power reserve which leaves no room for system failure. Even if the water level increases next year, due to the lack of reserve capacity to produce electricity, a breakdown of just one or two plants will result in problems. Given that 72 percent (254 MW) of the country’s total capacity of 352.8 MW comes from plants more than 20 years old, breakdowns will occur and unless some action is taken, the future is bleak.
The demand is already beyond 600MV and yet there seems to be little attention being given to long-term and more permanent solutions. Power plants just are not being built. New plants and replacement plants must be planned, approved and started immediately or else longer periods of blackouts will be inevitable. Without urgent action, the investments in industrialisation of Malawi (which have the potential to increase jobs and diversify the economy) will not occur. It is now time for the minister responsible to stop complaining and start doing the right thing with urgency.
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