Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Political leaders from greater Masaka have implored the government and electricity utility company Umeme to increase connections to the grid to transform lives.
Led by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Mathias Mpuuga, the leaders said many people remain off the grid yet electricity is key to kick-starting economic activity.
“This region is trying to rediscover its potential in all forms. The Masaka of old is trying to find its bearing and power is a key component to this greater discovery. I hope this is the beginning of a journey to connect many who need to access to power. Electricity should be added on the list of human rights of Ugandans,” Mpuuga said during an engagement between power distributor Umeme and Members of Parliament as well as Local Government officials from Masaka.
Mpuuga urged the people of Masaka to embrace electricity for cooking as a means of saving the environment. He also cautioned the people against vandalising the electricity installations and connecting themselves illegally to the grid.
Umeme’s Chief Operations Officer, Florence Nsubuga, said Government’s Electricity Connection Programme (ECP) was one of the vehicles to increase connectivity in Uganda, with an annual target of 300,000 new connections.
“Greater Masaka is one of the areas we oversee, and it is a beneficiary of the Government scheme where we have connected many residents for free as well as those that are able to pay for themselves,” she said. “Unfortunately, over the past period we have not been able to reach out to our customers individually but through their leaders, we can hear their voices and what it is that they want us to do.”
Nsubuga reiterated that power theft was a big challenge in the region and contributes to the increase in the energy losses.
“We lose about 17% of energy due to power theft, which had gone up compared to 2019 when it was 16%,” she said.
Umeme’s Regional Manager in charge of the Western region, Isaac Katewanga, said Umeme serves up to 65,000 customers in Greater Masaka.
“We have connected over 7,700 customers under ECP since 2018 and 2,700 customers under customer-funded programme. Our investments have been in the direction of improving network reliability across the network. The only challenge in the region is that some of our people engage in power theft which is very costly because we lose lives through electrocution,” he said.
In 2018, government launched the free electricity connection programme and Umeme is one of the implementing partners with financing from the Ministry of Energy. The programme recently resumed with no pole connections which will benefit over 87,500 customers.