Gakuto represents another Nazareth where skeptics never thought any good would come. And, like Nazareth, the place represents such a small village that has made it into the annals of history. This was said by the Honourable Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Affairs, Ponatshego Kedikilwe.
Officiating at the ceremony for the 100-Village electrification project held at Gakuto on Thursday, Kedikilwe said that the people from these villages would now not share a joke with lions but with light. The electrification of Gakuto, the minister said, indicates the government’s commitment to electrification as one of the prerequisites to meaningful rural developments, pre-requisite to successful industrialization, a sine qua non to the continued improvement to the quality of life of Batswana.
According to the Minister, electrification revolutionizes the household chores and cited an example of making tea, saying it will no longer be a chore for which distances must be traveled to fetch fire wood.
“School children can now prepare their homework under better light and save their eyesight,” he added. Minister Kedikilwe said that the revolution now spells the difference between domestic chores and the pressure of a home.
He pointed out that one of the objectives of the government’s current National Development Plan (NDP 9), is to accelerate the electrification of villages. In pursuit of this objective, the Minister said they have set themselves a target to electrify some 105 villages by the end of the planning period. He pointed out that the government had added another 10 villages to the originally targeted 105 and so far 15 villages have been electrified.
The Minister said that this would not have been possible without the help of the two Swedish banks, Nordic Investment Bank and Nordia, who, through their funding, gave sustainable verve to Batswana’s dreams and ambitions. “These two banks have put together the half billion Pula investment required for this project,” he said.
Minister Kedilikwe stated that the project is the latest chapter in the long history of friendship and cooperation between the Royal Kingdom of Sweden and the Republic of Botswana.
“Indeed, it was through the Swedish assistance and funding that we were able to undertake another of our electrification projects,” he said, explaining that the project was to extend electricity networks in 14 major villages, with funding from the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA).
This, he said, is a clear demonstration of the old maxim that what goes around, comes around. He revealed that the lead contractor on the 100 Village Electrification Project is the Swedish contractor ELTEL Networks TE AB.
“This is the same firm, which, between 1966 and 1998 and then known as TransElectric AB Networks, implemented the 14 Village Networks Extension Project.”
On the uphill journey of electrification, the Minister explained that the Government of Botswana is no spectator saying it will be funding the electrification of a further 30 villages at an investment of P115 million. “This brings the total number of villages due to be electrified during the current planning period to 145,” he said.
The Minister highlighted that his Ministry would extend distribution networks in twenty villages to the tune of P75 million during the 2007/2008 financial year. The villages to be covered include Bobonong, Charles Hill, Ghanzi, Gweta, Kanye, Letlhakane East, Mahalapye, Maun, Mmadinare, Mochudi, Molepolole, Moshupa, Pahapye, Ramotswa, Sefhare, Serowe, Thamaga, Tonota and Tutume.
The Director General for International Trade, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anders Ahnlid, stated that this project is very important for future opportunities of men and women living in rural areas.
“Sweden and Botswana has an excellent relationship and this is a clear example that Sweden has deep commitment in the development of Botswana,” he said. With this project, he added, many opportunities are going to arise, and people from these villages will now prosper at their own capacity.
According to Ahnlid, poverty is now going to be reduced and villagers are going to experience safe village life.
“This is indeed a very big important move because today’s world of globalization needs power plus infrastructure.”
The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) Board Chairperson, Ewetse Rakhudu, was also present at the occasion. In her remarks, she proudly announced that currently 224 villages have been electrified, and that the customer base has grown to 86 317, which is an increase of about 58 000 in 15 years. She said this is a clear reflection of the Botswana government’s sustained commitment to this electrification programme through which it has been possible to address the critical demand for clean and healthy electricity in the homes and for productive use.
Rakhudu appealed to the residents of Gakuto and other 99 villages to jealously protect the infrastructure from vandalism and theft.
She emphasized that they were aware that certain people in the community go around removing copper wires from BPC lines for sale as scrap. “Other than affecting the quality of the supply to customers, this poses a risk of serious injury, death and damage to users of electricity and their properties. Therefore vandalism should be reported to the police at all times,” she concluded.