For years, the West Nile Sub-region has grappled with inconsistent and insufficient power supply. This persistent issue has hindered the sub-region’s development, dissuading potential investors from engaging in the area. However, the business community in Arua City is taking action, urging the West Nile Rural Electrification Company (Wenreco) to expand local power connections as the sub-region prepares to connect to the national grid.
The goal of this initiative is to debunk the misconception that the sub-region lacks the capacity to fully utilize power from the national grid. Mr. Jimmy Awuzu Madira, Chairperson of Arua City Hotel Owners Association, emphasized the importance of this endeavor. He noted, “About expansion of your network, we know Arua City is very big, about 400 Sq Km, and many townships are not connected to power. And many villages are not connected.” He further stressed the need to increase coverage and enhance the speed and affordability of these power connections.
Mr. Awuzu expressed his concerns during the launch of a partnership between MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) and Wenreco, aimed at facilitating the purchase of electricity tokens for West Nile residents.
Wenreco’s Regional Manager, Mr. Kenneth Kigumba, clarified that the responsibility for expanding power connections lies with the Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Limited (UEDCL). He stated, “It is the work of UEDCL to make more connections, then we can distribute power to those on the new grid.”
The chronic issue of intermittent and inadequate power supply in the West Nile Sub-region has significantly impeded its development, discouraging potential investors from engaging in the area.
Starting from yesterday, residents in West Nile can directly purchase electricity tokens via MTN Mobile Money. This partnership streamlines the process of acquiring electricity tokens from Wenreco. Mr. Kigumba commended the collaboration with MTN, stating, “The customer should have services at all times. This partnership will make our customers have a long-term engagement as we build a more extensive customer base.”
The Chief Commercial Manager for MTN Mobile Money, Mr. Alex Wekoye, pointed out the significance of this opportunity, saying, “The opportunity presented means that even if you are far away, one can be able to buy a power unit so that life goes on in a better way.”
Wenreco was established in 2003 by the Industrial Promotion Services (IPS), a program of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED). Currently, over 23,000 people are connected to Wenreco’s power supply in West Nile.
In November of the previous year, Parliament approved a government request to borrow up to $331.5 million (approximately Shs1.242 trillion) from the International Development Association– IDA of the World Bank Group. This funding supports the electricity access scale-up project in West Nile, aiming to alleviate the region’s power woes.
According to the Afrobarometer 2021 report, only one in four Ugandans (26 percent) reside in households connected to the electric grid. Urban residents (67 percent) are five times more likely to have an electricity connection compared to their rural counterparts (13 percent).