By Ndalimpinga Iita
At his shack made out of corrugated iron in Havana informal settlement in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, John Sheya, was surfing the Internet on his laptop, connected to an electrical power socket.
“I’m sending an email, and doing some online research for a task I’m expected to complete,” he said Wednesday.
The consistent use of digital devices is, however, a contrast of his struggles over the years.
Before that, Sheya could not use his laptop throughout the day to complete tasks effectively. The lack of available electricity was the most significant barrier. This thwarted him and disenchanted business prosperity.
“We relied on illegal electricity connections, which damaged and fused our devices. It was also unreliable,” he said.
As luck would have it for him, this changed when the Windhoek municipality in November 2019 commissioned the electrification of 1,200 houses in Windhoek’s informal settlements in the Moses Garoeb Constituency.
Today, the electrification is driving the use of information communication technology amongst the ‘once-left behind’ dwellers.
“I am no longer forced to limit the use of digital devices for the battery to last longer. Charging the phone, let alone a laptop, which was a privilege and came at a cost is now an enabler and driver of personal development,” Sheya said.
Fransina Kahungu, Mayor of Windhoek, said that the move to electrify informal settlements forms part of the City Council’s resolution to intensify efforts and find innovative solutions towards bringing services closer to residents.
“It is our resolve to ensure decent livelihood through the provision of essential services to enable residents to pursue, advance economic activities and well as promote social interaction,” Kahungu said.
Sheya is not the only one maximising on the electrification of the settlement.
For Tresia Elia, access to reliable electricity connection marked the end of her struggle and social exclusion. Before that, the use of a mobile phone was limited to urgent calls and messages. Conversely, she is now able to participate in topical discussions trending on various social media platforms.
“Seeking new opportunities and participation in the discussions has become easier given the fact that I can charge my phone any time. Also, back then, charging my phone came at a cost and risk,” said Elia.
For Atti Karl, he has been able to grow his business’ online presence, which has had a ripple effect on his proceeds.
“I can respond to clients promptly as my phone is always powered, which improves service delivery and subsequently, customer satisfaction and thus a high turnover,” he added.
Meanwhile, the electrification of informal settlement is also set to address other socio-economic problems in the area.
According to David Martin, councillor of Moses Garoeb Constituency, the electrification of the informal settlements has not only had a positive impact on residents but has also enhanced social cohesion, with people able to communicate better.
“In that way, we curb crime and ensure safety given that crime is prevalent, and one of the major challenges the city faces. Overall, the aim is to create a dignified environment for all residents to prosper,” he said.
In the interim, Kahungu said that the city would continuously engage with residents, thereby allowing them to participate in the planning processes fully to drive change and improve livelihoods.
The City of Windhoek invested 13 million Namibian dollars(872 000 U.S. dollars) in electrifying 1,200 houses in the constituency. Enditem