Electricity for All in Malawi
Our aim is to make electricity accessible to as many households and small enterprises in rural Malawi as possible.
We do this by installing kiosks in rural communities where people can rent batteries. They can use those batteries for their basic electricity needs, such as lighting, mobile phone charging and listening to the radio. Batteries with more capacity are offered allowing people to start a new business, e.g. a barbershop, video hall or a cooled drinks store.
Renting a battery is cheaper for customers than buying the equivalent of alternative energy sources. In Malawi most households currently spent money on paraffin, candles, phone charging, but also batteries for their radios and torches.
One electricity kiosk can serve 150 to 500 customers and can easily be scaled up or down depending on the electricity demand in a community. Most households have a mobile phone which they can use to make prepaid payments. Other people will prefer to pay cash or through a loan from a micro finance institution.
All rural households in Malawi can potentially be electrified by installing around 5,400 electricity kiosks.
Electricity Access in Malawi
Only about 9% of the population in Malawi has access to electricity, mostly in urban centers. For the 80% of the people living in rural areas, access to electricity is less than 1%.
Malawi’s Rural Electrification Programme (MAREP) is being implemented by the Government of Malawi (GoM). The goal of the program is to improve the rate of household electrification through the extension of distribution. Phase V of this plan concluded in May 2007 and Phase VI is under implementation. The plan focuses on major trading centres, and Phase VI will electrify 108 trading centres. Other plans are underway for the rehabilitation, upgrade and expansion of priority parts of the existing distribution and transmission system, including extension of the network in selected peri-urban areas and reinforcement of the low voltage reticulation.
The government has electrified a number of villages using stand-alone hybrid (wind-solar) generation systems. In addition to this, several donors, NGOs and businesses have been implementing off-grid solutions for communities and individuals such as (mini-) solar and hydro installations to generate and supply electricity. However, the electrification of rural communities using off-grid systems has not been implemented on a large-scale so far.
Based on a strategy developed by Eqnon in Malawi the Electricity Kiosk is identified as the cheapest way to supply basic electricity to most rural communities in Malawi. Not in scope of this study were communities:
- that are currently part of an on-grid or off-grid power expansion plan;
- that need more than basic electricity (whereby basic electricity is defined as electricity for a few hours of lighting per day, a couple of times charging the phone per week, and for selected electronic devices to start a small business); and
- for which the combination of demand and density of the population within the community is high enough to be considered for other electrification options (e.g. a mini-grid or grid expansion).