It is hard to comprehend that one would spend Sh6,500 to just get a cold drink.
But such used to be the case in Nakopi village in Mtwara Region’s Nanyumbu District. Before December last year, Nakopi villagers who needed to quench their thirst with a Sh500 cold soda had to pay Sh6,000 bus fare to and from the district headquarters in Mangaka, 60 kilometres away.
Similarly, whoever needed photocopy service had to go all the way to Mangaka for the service.
Ever since the village was established in 1975, the 5,305 Nakopi residents had no power supply until towards the end of last year when they had power for the first time, thanks to a Sh780 million solar power project by PowerCorner Tanzania Limited.
December 2017 will remain in Nakopi’s history books. It was the month in which the first electricity bulb was switched on, bringing joy to all the villagers, some to whom it was the first time to see electricity. Now, a cold soda and photocopy services are now available in the village.
PowerCorner Tanzania Limited which generates electricity from solar energy was developed to capitalise on the significant opportunities presented by electrification in Tanzania and across Sub-SaharanAfrica, both to impact rural communities who currently do not have access to power and to build a sustainable business model.
The 30 kilowatts project has not only provided Nakopi villagers with light during the night but it has also created many income generating opportunities. A number of villagers have invested in various projects such as welding, carpentry, secretarial services and other businesses which need electricity to run.
Rashid Hashim is one of the prominent people in Nakopi. Hashim says travelling all the way to Mangaka to buy a cold soda or make a photocopy, was common, especially among villagers who are financially better off.
“Travelling to Mangaka to drink a cold soda was common here. In order to make the best of the trip, we would make sure we had more to do in town, so we would not travel all the way there and spend that much money to just get a cold drink. Most of us used to make such trips twice in a week,” Hashim says.
Availability of electricity in Nakopi has created a lot of business opportunities. Many people have ventured into activities which need electricity to run which were impossible to execute in the past.
A drinks outlet owner in the village, Bakari Issa, says his business has more than doubled since the village was connected to the mini-grid. In the past he used to sell two crates of soft drinks per week, today he sells more than five.
“In the past I used to sell only one crate of beer but now I sell two. I have bought an additional refrigerator to accommodate my booming business. I thank God that electricity has opened up new opportunities,” he says.
He paid Sh150,000 to be connected to the grid and to recoup this investment quickly, Issa has also started showing football matches, at a fee and business is good. He charges Sh500 per football match.
“I also offer preservation services to people who want to preserve their perishable goods such as meat and many others at a fee,” he adds.
Ms Sophia Matumla, another villager, says the power has helped villagers to do away with paraffin lamps.
“Now children can review their studies at night without much problems. Health services at our dispensary have also improved and are offered around the clock because we have electricity,” she says.
Another villager, Ndawambe Waziri, a power distribution system supervisor with PowerCorner project, has also grabbed the opportunity by opening a stationery and secretarial services shop.
“Because I have another job, I have employed two people to run my business. I plan to expand thebusiness because the market here is huge,” he says.
Despite spending Sh3,000 electricity bill every day on average, Waziri still makes profit because his business serves people from neighbouring villages as well.
“Villages in Michiga ward have no access to electricity. They now travel to Nakopi for services just like we used to travel to Mangaka,” he says grinning.
Business has also picked up for Mohamed Rashid, a technician and owner of a welding and carpentry workshop. With electricity access, he now serves more people within a short period. He says his life has improved because he now makes more money.
“Running costs have also gone down because we now have cheap electricity. We make various forms of furniture using timber and iron bars,” he says.
Improved health services
The Chief Medical Officer at the village dispensary, Anna Lucas, says availability of electricity has improved health services at the facility. She says they can now handle many emergence cases such as pregnancy complications at any time.
“We no longer have electricity problems. The only challenges we have remained with are shortage of medicines and other medical supplies. We can now store drugs which need to be stored in low temperatures,” she narrates.
But all these developments would not have been possible if the villagers had not offered the necessary support.
Nakopi village chairman, Hassan Said, commends villagers who agreed to give out their land for the project without demanding to be compensated.
“If it were not for these villagers this project would not have been realised. They showed a high degree of cooperation and willingness to make this project possible. Others agreed to lose their crops so that the power lines could pass in their areas and they too did not ask for compensation. This is the true spirit of togetherness and working for development,” he says.
PowerCorner Director, Mpembe Ngwisa is optimistic that the project will enable Nakopi residents to contribute to the country’s economy. Nakopi villagers can now participate in the implementation of the government’s dream of building an industrialised economy,” he says.