Thirty four schools, 29 households and seven government institutions will this year benefit from the rural electrification programme under the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME).
The ministry has allocated N$50 million towards this initiative, a huge increase from the N$18 million spent in the last financial year in which 20 public institutions and localities were electrified in Kavango West, Kavango East and Omaheke regions while 29 households and seven formal and informal business centres were connected to the national grid.
Motivating her ministry’s budget for the 2018/19 financial year in Parliament on Tuesday, Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy, Kornelia Shilunga, said the rural electrification programme shall continue to be a priority for the ministry at a time when the programme has received constant backlash from critics, who say that it is not being accorded much importance and has been moving at a very slow pace.
So far the programme, that deliberately excludes foreign companies from taking up the available tenders to empower local companies, has gobbled more than N$600 million since its inception in 1992.
The Rural Electricity Distribution Master Plan (REDMP) for Namibia - completed in 2000 and updated in 2005 - currently forms the basis for identifying and prioritising rural localities for electrification.
Rural electrification of over 250,000 households is needed in order to improve social conditions of the rural communities that were previously denied such services.
Rural electrification has been one of the major projects pursued by the MME in the past 18 years to provide electricity to the country’s marginalised communities.
Previously, the ministry has revealed that most local companies had been shunning the project in the Karas and Caprivi regions because of rugged terrains and their consequent inability to handle those areas.
In 1997, rural areas access to electricity was estimated at 9 percent (one in 10 houses), and the government's goal was to increase this to at least two to three out of 10 houses (or 25 percent) by 2010.
A 2010 REDMP review measured it at 16 percent still less than two houses out of 10.
Based on a prioritised and most effective building sequence, this REDMP foresees the systematic electrification of 2,879 rural Localities. Within these is included 740 Government buildings, 642 of which are schools, and 59,774 rural homesteads.
Due to the scattered nature of rural settlements, electrification costs are often high and there is also a lot of poor performance from some of the contractors and engineers.