FROM the public policy perspective, a policy that lacks implementing strategies remains an academic exercise and is far from being achieved.
In this week’s article, I will delve into how the rural connectivity policy initiative by the Government is shaping up after the increase in funding to the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) and the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
REA funding reached ‘unprecedented’ levels as the government doubled the previous allocation of K360 million in 2022 to K740 million in 2023.
Now that the 2024 budget is silent about the allocation to REA projects, this means the 2023 amount of K740 million will be again pumped in rural electrification efforts.
In the 2024 National Budget speech, Finance and National Development Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane told Parliament: “To increase access to clean, reliable and affordable energy in rural areas, the Government will continue to support the Rural Electrification Programme”.
It should be noted that the Government, through REA, embarked on 62 Grid- Tied Electrification Projects and 19 Solar Mini-Grid Projects in 2023.
From the media reports, works on these projects have commenced and once completed, access to electricity in rural areas will be improved.
Just recently, the Government through REA handed over a Grid Intensification project to Salamano community in Kitwe executed at the cost of K2.1 million.
The project is earmarked to benefit more than 16, 000 households thereby facilitating business growth as the Government looks at achieving the goal of providing equal access to electricity.
The grid extension project according to the project brief by REA, will cover a stretch of 30 kilometres of overhead 60 Kilovolt Watt.
In Chilubi Island, the Government through REA under the 2023 Work Plan is implementing various Grid Extension Projects (GEPs) among them the Matipa GEP.
In addition, the authority is reportedly executing 10 projects worth K17 million which will see more than 1, 000 homes and the entire public infrastructure in the health and education sector connected to the grid in Pambashe in the first phase.
In the second phase of the grid extension project, REA is targeting to connect in excess of 20, 000 households, farmers and Small and Medium Enterprises in the area.
Currently, the Government through REA under the 2023 Work Plan and Budget in May this year embarked on implementation of Pambashe Phase I GEP in Kawambwa district, Luapula Province.
On the other hand, the recent announcement of electricity connection subsidy by Zesco Limited in connection with REA is broadening access to electricity for low-income earners and rural dwellers thereby boosting tourism.
Zesco has announced the re-introduction of the new connection subsidy targeting about 8, 300 connections
like wiring of public infrastructure.
In an interaction with REA chief executive officer Linus Chanda revealed that REA will soon sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 44 local authorities in the country to tap into the CDF thereby advancing electricity coverage in rural communities.
So far, the authority has signed 26 MoUs with councils in selected provinces who are making funds available for the wiring of public infrastructure not yet connected to the grid.
REA’s target is to work with all the 116 councils in the country as the government targets to increase rural electricity coverage to 51 per cent from the current eight per cent by 2030.
From the look of things, the policy interventions and funding to REA will bring revolution to the energy sector.
This policy intervention will serve to a major purposes, boost businesses and environmental protection.
From the economic and business perspective, businesses like butchery, barber shops, and other power enabled small scale industries will receive a major boost.
Electricity connection to rural parts of the country will mean the revival of small processing industries like peanut butter, medium scale hammer mills, saw milling and other value chain manufacturing activities which will make remote parts of the country more attractive.
Not forgetting the facilitation of irrigation schemes in rural parts of the country, the positive spiral effect will be the creation of numerous and diverse jobs that will make rural areas more economically resilient and more attractive.
From an environmental perspective, the roll out of affordable electricity will help in detracting more rural dwellers from cutting trees for cooking and charcoal burning.
This will in turn save millions of trees looking at the level of deforestation in the countryside that is sending shivers to the environment as climate change is already causing havoc.