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20+ GW for Malawi

Electricity is an indisputable enabler for any modern society. Hardly any other technology has had as much an influence as electricity. And yet, two-thirds of Africans still don’t have access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity. This energy deficit continues to stifle economic growth, job creation, agricultural transformation as well as improvements in health and education. The deficit essentially stifles human potential, a sad reality for Africa But it is equally sad for the world as it means Africa is not able to contribute anywhere close to its potential.

The energy crisis has for a long, long time been a huge problem to Sub-Saharan Africa; this energy poverty presents a bottleneck for solving most of the other problems across the region. Despite long standing efforts to address the energy poverty, in 2014 633 million people lacked access to electricity and 792 million people relied on traditional biomass as their energy source for cooking (IEA, 2016). This lack of electricity has resulted in limited opportunities for entrepreneurs and corporations alike as well as premature deaths due to respiratory diseases caused by or exacerbated by cooking using outdated means.

Malawi being one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is heavily hit by the deficit of electricity. With an estimated population of 18 million people as of 2020, less than 15 percent of the population have access to electricity. Those 15 percent often get electricity for less than half a day.  The Malawi power generation capacity is under 500 MW–too little to be of much use beyond lighting. No serious investor, local or foreign, would have the desire to invest in large scale projects with such a lack of energy.

But how much energy does Malawi need? Others have estimated that Malawi will need 2.5 billion dollars by 2030 in order to achieve an electrification rate of 30 percent. The goal is to have 1,200 MW by 2030.


We believe differently. Malawi needs more than 20,000 MW of power. The country has the capacity for more than 20,000 MW with the available resources. Producing 20,000 MW would require different means including wind, solar, hydro as well as biomass—but it can all be clean.

We believe so because we believe in the potential of the country and its people. Most other predictions for how much Malawi needs have an underlying assumption: that, for example in 2030, Malawi will still be one of the poorest nations on the planet. That is why well-meaning organizations create models that predict that Malawi needs such low levels of electricity as 1200, 2000 MW or something like it. But consider that Malawians are humans like those in Singapore or the USA. They too want air conditioning, 24/7 electricity, electric trains, advanced and futuristic airports, hospitals in which people don’t die due to power cuts, and data centers, to name a few. We know that this set of technologies can only be possible if there is over 20, 000 MW.

But why not do small projects, at least to help these poor people? For those outside Malawi a change from traditional fires for lighting to an electric bulb seems like a good thing. But for the average Malawian in a rural area, who initially did not have an electricity bill, the arrival of a little bit of electricity is in fact a new liability. They didn’t have to pay for lighting before, now they have to. But more electricity can allow that individual to open a welding business–or well, why not, an electric car plant. With this business that individual is able to pay for the electricity. Similarly at a national level small projects are a liability that will be hard to settle—it is too little to activate the economy and thus less an enabler and more a burden.

We reiterate that a little bit of electricity is a liability for the country. A lot of electricity is what will truly change things. We know, looking at other nations, that 18 million people need far, far more than a 1000 MW or, really anything below 20 thousand. Yes, Malawi is different–it is poor, we heard that. But what would need to change? Do we wait until there is a lot of demand from factories and then build the power plants for the factories? But who in the first place would build a factory if there is no reliable electricity! Indeed the idea has been one of building small projects and hoping the factories will follow; this has been experimented with for a long time already. There have been small projects all the way back to the establishment of the Republic in the 1960s. Small projects funded by benefactors over the last 50 plus years has resulted in less than 400 MW of capacity; that is HALF a century to reach a capacity that other nations build in weeks. So, no, small projects haven’t worked; they will not work in the next 50 years.

Yet, we do not instead wish for a haphazard building of power plants. The point is we need to build, a lot and bigger. A coordinated effort is required so that there isn’t an oversupply; but even if there were an oversupply of electricity in Malawi, it would simply be a new export to the neighbours. So what is needed now is large, financially sound projects. At KCHKNA we would like to be involved in this next chapter of the country!

Electricity is truly magical. It is one of mankind’s greatest inventions, by far. Even computers, themselves one other great invention, can only do what they do thanks to electricity. A society without electricity can have the highest levels of education on the planet but will remain poor. It may have all the natural resources nature has to offer, and people will still die from malnutrition as the country fails to exploit those resources. Let’s electrify Malawi, for in doing so we truly are unlocking the potential of the people!

Artificial Intelligence in Malawi


One of the oldest dreams and one that has long been cherished by science is that of creating intelligent machines. In the 1950s a mathematician Alan Mathison Turing asked a simple question akin to: “Can Machines Think?” And today, to some level, it appears they sure can!

Artificial intelligence includes a wide range of science tools concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI is an interdisciplinary science with multiple approaches, but key advancements have been enabled by machine learning and deep learning. These implementations of intelligence are mostly based on computer science concepts which in turn may be based or written in the language of mathematical modelling.
Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks. Most AI examples that are talked about the most often in media–self-driving cars, protein folding, etc – rely heavily on deep learning. Using these technologies, computers can be trained to accomplish specific tasks by processing large amounts of data and recognizing patterns in the data.

Embedding intelligence into otherwise unintelligent matter naturally raises some tricky questions. Computers have already shown that they can perform computations at a far higher speed and efficiency than humans can. What would the future of more ubiquitous and sophisticated intelligence bring to mankind? This remains an open question. At KCHKNA we see AI as one of the most promising tools for the kind of societal growth that will simplify life of humanity; we need AI to help us solve some of the complex issues in our lives.

With the introduction of computers human life has changed tremendously. Many tasks have completely evolved from how they were conducted both in terms of the speed as well as the culture. We have managed to create computer programs that have allowed us to perform automated tasks which has enabled us to save one of our greatest resources (Time). Most African countries took some time to adopt as well to implement computer systems and this slowed their progress in development. With the coming of artificial intelligence most African countries can now take advantage of the technology to work hand in hand with software to devise better data-based strategies or implement those strategies. With artificial intelligence and artificial simulations, scenarios–economic, political, environmental– can be played out and their evolution tracked prior to actual implementation; this then minimizes risk. For Malawi, as it aims to develop at a far more rapid pace than ever before, adopting these kinds of technologies is not a matter of choice—it must be done.  Hospitals, schools, farms as well different industries can maximize productivity by incorporating artificial intelligence.  AI systems can scan great amounts of historical data in a few minutes and identify patterns that are impossible to be observed by humans. There is a limit to what human intelligence can do at any point in time. But the potential of artificial intelligence is limitless. Malawi as a country can benefit from these systems in both government as well as private sector. 

The beauty of AI is that most of the tools for developing AI systems are in fact open source. One needs no more than a computer and a human brain! The applications that can be developed are too numerous to mention but here are some examples:

  1. Local language Natural Language Processing (NLP) models: We know that one of the most natural modes of communicating is using voice. The arrival of computers and mobile devices in the last few decades has made communicating with hands (typing) seem normal. But with better NLP now the norm may well be communicating with our various devices using voice. But NLP models will not understand any language out of the box. They need to be trained on a lot of transcripts from the local languages. So NLP models for Malawi need to be developed.
  2. Autonomous Cars—Autonomous cars drive themselves. This is less of a big deal in the almost flawless streets of, say, Singapore, but take the car into the likes of Chatoloma or Wimbe and the car may immediately lose its intelligence! This is expected because intelligence depends on experience so in order for autonomous cars to drive on the streets and roads of Malawi we need the models to be trained on the streets of Malawi. Autonomous driving relies on cameras and computers, both of which are readily available to anyone who dares to look so Malawi can start developing Autonomous Cars, be they road-based or air vehicles!
  3. Fast Diagnosis of Common Diseases—Malaria is diagnosed by looking at the Red Blood Cells. Many errors are made in the process of diagnosis, and more importantly a lot of time is spent looking at the RBCs to see if the host of the cells is infected. This whole process can be put into a machine learning pipeline thus automating it. Many more illnesses can be diagnosed much faster with AI–but to ensure safe and accurate models they need to be trained on local data.
  4. Advanced Robotics—We emphasize that the beauty of AI is that all one needs is a computer and a brain—and the desire to do something creative! So training robots for a variety of tasks can be done at present. By incorporating robots across many industries the overall gains made by the country will be immense.

Watch out for our future posts where we share more in-depth about some of the many ways some of these applications and others can be implemented.