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How Electricity is changing lives of Island-People

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Mar 24, 2020 ,
By Persis Nagawa
Currently among the top tourists destination, one cannot imagine how Kalangala was, six years ago before electricity had been introduced. Joseph Muluuta one of the elders at the island recalls when residents could have supper before sunset, or better so, outside at the fireplace. Bugala Island, situated on Lake Victoria in Kalangala District, has undergone a transformation over the past decade. Previously one of Uganda’s poorest districts, residents of Bugala Island lacked safe regular access to the mainland, reliable electricity and clean water.
KIS Electricity plant at Bugala island in Kalangala district

This had constrained the growth of agriculture and fishing activities on the island and prevented the realisation of its tourism potential. In 2005, InfraCo Africa began to address these constraints and established an infrastructure company, Kalangala Infrastructure Services (KIS) which started generating and supplying electricity in 2015. Today, the island is thriving and Kalangala is among Uganda’s wealthiest regions.

Isaac Mubeezi a teacher, testifies that learners’ standard has since improved, which is greatly attributed to electricity supply more especially at Bugala island. “Students can now do late-night revisions compared to the past,” noted teacher Mubeezi.

The Solar power plant generates 1.6megawatts of electricity, enough for all people and businesses at Bugala island

Brian Keitira a proprietor of Victoria Forest resort in Kalangala district, cannot comprehend a hotel business without electricity. “Fortunately, we currently have constant supply of electricity and and water at the island, which has helped boost not only business, but tourism as well,” notes Keitira of Victoria Forest resort.

Stephen Kizza the chairperson for Kalangala town council stated that, over 270 groups of people have started up businesses and other ventures which directly use electricity. “As a result, it has created employment opportunities for Kalangala residents,” added Kizza.

Domestic use affecting Power supply

According to Joseph Mulindwa the marketing and public affairs manager for KIS, the company produces 1.6megawats of electricity, which can be expanded to 5megawats. However, according to the company records, between 600-700kilowatts of electricity is used by the residents. According to John Opondo the managing director of Kalangala Infrastructure Services, there are so many households in Kalangala which are already supplied with solar energy and yet, only use it for domestic consumption. “We produce 1.6 mega watts which is sufficient for all residents on Buggala island. Much as there are currently many power connections, there is less consumption of such electricity which brings about low returns against the high operational and maintenance cost,” noted Opondo.

From left; KIS Director John Opondo USAIDs Paul Clark and a representative from Sanford group during the launch of commercial use of electricity
In November 2018, a programme code-named, “productive use of electricity,” was launched by the Untied States Agency for International Development (USAID), under Power Africa project, which aimed at orienting Kalangala residents on how to use electricity productively. While launching the programme, USAID’s Paul Clark who was then the access director for Power-Africa Uganda, said, the programme also aimed at prioritising women through economic empowerment. “We do not wish the rural community to perceive electricity as a burden, but rather an income-generating avenue,” remarked Clark.
“The number of household connections has increased from 3,400 to 3,800 just months since the programme was launched,” noted Opondo adding that, not only have there been new connections, but also utilisation of power has increased from 25% to 40%.
Brenda Nambajjwe, the in-charge for Eunice health centre said, most of the equipment in the health facility which were intended to be used, would require much and constant power supply. “After engaging with KIS, we actually realised there is more than enough electricity to run all our medical equipment, hence setting up the facility,” said Nambajjwe.
A medical worker demonstrating how medical equipment can be operated with solar energ
Other business enterprises which have so far been set up, include, operating popcorn machines, dealing in fish feeds, welding, ice plants, laundry, maize and rice mills among others. Joseph Lubega of Mwena, Kalangala town council said, he was to set up electric fuel pumps before the end of this year, whereas Tadeo Kagoda has set up electrical rice and maize mills.
In a 1995 review of the World Bank’s rural electrification projects in Asia, the bank’s operations evaluation department concluded that economic returns of rural electrification projects were considerably lower than expected, stating that most rural electrification initiatives, had mainly focused on household and community needs for lighting.
About KIS

KIS is a Utility company under Public Private Partnership (PPP) where government owns 46% of the total shares, with efforts aimed at developing infrastructure on the island with the key aim of attracting investments, boost businesses, and improve livelihoods. Uganda has one of the lowest electrification rates even though the country has experienced an economic growth rate of 5% each year, over the last ten years. According to USAID report under Power Africa, 55 percent of Ugandans in urban areas, have access to electricity while in rural areas, the rate drops to ten percent. In 2018, USAID under Power Africa project, launched a plan of adding 1,000 megawatts and one million new electricity connections by 2020.

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