By Christopher Chisi
Government has launched an over 26 Million United States Dollars project dubbed, Electricity Service Access Project-ESAP aimed at accelerating electricity access in rural areas.
The 5 Year Project which is being implemented by Rural Electrification Authority, Zesco and the Development Bank Of zambia is earmarked to benefit 115,000 Low Income Households and Medium And Small Scale Enterprises in Northern, Luapula, Copper belt and North-Western Provinces.Others include Eastern Southern, Muchinga, Central and Western.
Speaking during the launch of the Project, Energy Minister Mathew Nkhuwa says the beneficiaries will be connected to electricity through the main Grid at a subsidized rate of Two Hundred and Fifty Kwacha.
“I must mention that at the start of the Rural Electrification Program, established by Parliament in 2003, the access rate to electricity in rural areas was only 3.3 percent. The current statistics, according to the Living Conditions Monitoring Survey report of 2015, show that overall rural electricity access rates in Zambia is still as low as 4.4 percent and 7.7 percent for grid and solar connections respectively,” Nkhuwa says.
“The project will provide last mile connections to the national grid to about 22,000 low-income households and about 1,000 medium and small scale enterprises in rural areas.”
And REA Chief Executive Officer, Geoffrey Musonda is confident that the project will enhance social economic development in rural areas.
Musonda added that the ESAP is a major milestone in achieving the goals set in the Rural Electrification Master Plan.
“We would want to see social-economic improvement in the areas where the project will be implemented. We are mindful of the priceless expectations among community members for future social-economic gains from the delivery of electricity in people’s homes, schools, rural health centres and indeed, other facilities,” Musonda says.
And ZESCO Managing Director, Victor Mundede reiterated that the launched project will unlock economic potential in the targeted areas.
He revealed that so far 6,000 subsidy customers have been connected in the last three months under the ESAP program.
Meanwhile World Bank Group Country Manager, Ina Ruthenberg stressed that expanding access to electricity is critical to ensuring that the country attains the aspirations of Vision 2030 and the Seventh National Development Plan.
Ruthenberg noted that Zambia is not the only country facing challenges of access to electricity.
“Access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa lags the rest of the world event at the same level of development and until recently, the total number of people without access to electricity continued to increase as population growth outpaced electrification. Furthermore, substantial disparities between countries mean that the electricity access situation in the poorest countries such as Zambia is even worse,” Ruthenberg observed.
She notes that the energy sector is the engine of Zambia’s growth and prosperity.