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Empower Malawi is a social enterprise operating in Northern Malawi with the aim of providing access to energy to hard to reach, rural communities. While solar businesses focusing on providing access to energy have thrived across much of Eastern Africa, the uptake in Malawi has been significantly slower to date. This is largely driven by the low income nature of the country, with Malawi having the third lowest GDP per capita globally (World Bank 2019).
NextEnergy Foundation first partnered with Empower Malawi in 2017 to set up five independent energy Hubs which provided energy access to rural communities. The aim was to bridge the finance gap for low-income consumers by offering pay-per-use access to energy goods and services, such as phone charging, rental of house lights and charging of batteries, thus allowing consumers to access goods and services without incurring high start-up costs.
The Hubs were also delivered in conjunction with local schools across Northern Malawi. Each Hub offered the participating schools free lighting, allowing classes to be run at night and improving the educational services provided by the schools.
NextEnergy Foundation first partnered with Empower Malawi in 2017 to set up five independent energy Hubs which provided energy access to rural communities.
NextEnergy Foundation and Empower Malawi renewed their partnership in 2019 when a donation was made to install solar lighting systems in 25 schools across the Nkhata Bay District. In each school, one lighting system of 4 lights was provided; each system has the capacity to generate an additional 4-5 hours of lighting per night, or over 400 extra study hours per year. When night classes were offered because of the increased access to electricity in the schools, the pass rate of Standard 8 (13 year old) students rose from 66% 85%. In total, this donation increased access to education to over 1,700 children.
Following the success of the first donation in 2019, NextEnergy Foundation sponsored the installation solar systems on an additional 30 schools by the Empower Malawi Team in Nkhata Bay District. According to data provided by the District Education Officer, a total of 14,500 children who attend these 30 schools will have increased access to education through the provision of lighting.
NextEnergy Foundation received funding from our first external donor, the Church of Scotland, in early 2020. By matching these funds received, NextEnergy Foundation’s support will enable Empower Malawi to near the installation of 50% of the schools in the Nkhata Bay District with solar lighting systems.
NextEnergy Foundation is committed to supporting Empower Malawi to reaching its goal of installing solar lighting systems on 100% of the primary schools in the Nkhata Bay District. The Foundation had matched the funds raised by SoPowerful, an organisation which is also working to bring solar power where it matters most, to enable Empower Malawi to install solar lighting systems on a further 80 schools in the Nkhata Bay District. This will bring the number of primary schools with access to clean energy to 140 out of 193.
January 2021 Update: Since December 2020, solar lighting systems have been installed on 51 new schools. In order to complete these installations, the Empower Malawi Team has covered over 800km to do so. You might think that doesn’t sound much, but these are 800 hard kilometres of dirt roads, wooden bridges, fording rivers and climbing mountains…all in 30 degree heat! For many communities this is the first time they have seen electricity in their village so the arrival of these small scale solar systems is a big event.
Due to the large number of children in each classroom, these 51 new installations will expose 22,326 students to solar energy for the first time. Based on previous data, this will provide increase study time to 4,500 children in these schools each year, allowing them access to critical teaching time prior to their examinations, and helping them graduate to secondary school.
Since 2019, NextEnergy Foundation’s support for Empower Malawi has contributed to the installation of solar lighting systems on 100% of the primary schools in the Nkhata Bay District, Malawi; this has exposed 86,000 children to solar power for the first time and created additional study time for 19,000 students every day.
In June 2021, the NextEnergy Foundation’s Board of Trustees agreed to support Empower Malawi’s 5-year plan. As part of this, the Foundation is financing the installation of solar systems on the 52 secondary schools in the District, benefiting the studies of a further 22,500 children from access to solar energy. In addition, NEF is supporting the installation of solar systems on the 22 health centres located across the District, impacting over 2,200 people.
Thank you to our very own Daniel Kingscote and Paul Norrish for overseeing this ambitious work! An update on the progress of the installations will be provided later in the year.