Malawi Rural Electrification Programme (MAREP)

The Background of Malawi Rural Electrification Programme

The Ministry of Energy has been implementing Malawi Rural Electrification Programme (MAREP) with an aim of increasing access to electricity for the rural and peri-urban areas in order to transform the rural economies and reduce poverty amongst the rural masses and contribute to Government’s agenda on poverty reduction. The Programme started in the 1980s with Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) Ltd as the implementing entity. The program was implemented through own financing and donor funding. Following the reforms in the electricity sector in 1998, ESCOM Ltd was commercialized and mandated to operate as a commercial unit. ESCOM Ltd established that rural electrification was not economically viable and consequently could not continue implementing MAREP. Confronted with the responsibility of providing social services to the rural societies, Malawi Government decided to take over the implementation of rural electrification activities by mandating the Ministry responsible for Energy under the Department of Energy Affairs to plan and implement MAREP.

In 2004, Government enacted a Rural Electrification Act with a view to providing a legal framework within which rural electrification activities could be implemented. The Act created the Rural Electrification Management Committee (REMAC) to oversee the activities of MAREP. The Act mandated REMAC to ensure that the majority of the Malawian population in peri-urban and rural areas have access to efficient, sustainable, reliable and affordable energy for their social-economic development through grid extension and offgrid electricity supply. The Rural Electrification Unit, within the Ministry was mandated to act as Secretariat for REMAC and perform day to day implementation and coordination of rural electrification activities in the country. The Act also established the Rural Electrification Fund which gets replenished mainly from a levy on energy sales and concession fees.

The Ministry started with construction of MAREP Phase IV in 2002 and was completed in May 2007 with a total of 97 trading centers electrified. MAREP phase V electrified 27 trading centers across the country and was completed in 2009. In Phase VII, MAREP implemented 54 trading centres, two centres in each of the 27 Districts except Likoma which is fully electrified. All the sites are fully commissioned by ESCOM which handles the operation and maintenance works after the constructions are completed.


The Ministry is in the process of implementing MAREP Phase 9. The process is at an advance stage as a number of activities have already been conducted. MAREP phase 9 will electrify 416 sites across all the 27 districts in the country except for Likoma Island which is fully electrified. The priotisation of sites in each district is based on the energy demand ranking guided by MAREP Masterplan.

The objective of MAREP is to increase access to electricity for people in peri-urban and rural areas as part of Government’s effort to reduce poverty, transform rural economies, improve productivity and improve the quality of social services.

Rural Electrification Management Committee (REMAC)
REMAC was established in pursuant to Section 4 (1) of the Rural Electrification Act No. 21 of 2004.

The major objectives of REMAC include the following:

  • To ensure that the majority of the Malawian population in peri-urban and rural communities have access to efficient, sustainable and affordable energy for their social economic development through grid extension and off grid electricity supply, including solar home system technologies;
  • To raise funds and receive and administer the Fund for the benefit of rural electrification in Malawi;
  • To prepare annual rural electrification programme(s) and advise the Minister on the prioritization, selection criteria on candidate sites, and ensure the efficient and effective implementation of rural electrification programmes;
  • To promote rural electrification and act as a source of technical, commercial and institutional advice in rural electrification matters.

The Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining is continuing with implementation of its flagship Malawi Rural Electrification Programme (MAREP). The Programme is implemented in phases, and the Ministry has just concluded electrification of 336 rural centres across the country under MAREP 8 thereby increasing access to electricity to rural masses.

Soon after phase 8 which ended in June 2018, MAREP introduced Extended MAREP Phase VIII in January 2019 which is electrifying 270 trading centers; 10 in each of 27districts except Likoma. Extended MAREP phase 8 is currently underway and so far, 221 sites have been completed and 49 sites are in progress. Overall progress of the project progress is at 82% and is expected to be completed in March 2020.

Currently, preliminary preparations that started in July 2019 are underway to introduce MAREP Phase 9 that intends to electrify 500 trading centers in all districts across the country. MAREP future plan is to continue electrifying growing rural trading centers and villages while carrying out its mandate to increase electrification access either through grid extension or decentralised, off-grid technologies such as solar photovoltaic, wind and mini hydropower largely depending on spatial qualities of the targeted centre such as distance from the national grid, demand and settlement pattern, just to mention a few. Therefore, through MAREP IX, the Department also intends to electrify four (4) centres with solar mini-grids in the following districts: Manolo and Malidadi in Mzimba, Kapsyanga in Kasungu and Nsendwe in Lilongwe..

MAREP uses a Master Plan which contains all the prioritized sites per district to be electrified.  The selection of sites to be included in the Master Plan is done by the Ministry of Energy in partnership with respective District Councils. All Councils through Village Development Committees (VDCs) and Area Development Committee (ADCs) submit to the Ministry the would-be sites to be electrified after they have been approved by the full council for each district. The Ministry conducts a survey of all the submitted sites to authenticate their existence and collect data for demand assessment. After the survey, sites are prioritized and put into the Master Plan. The Master Plan is updated after all sites that were included have been electrified.  The first Master Plan was developed by JICA in 2002 and all sites in the plan had been electrified. The Ministry is currently implementing an updated Master Plan which is covering a period from 2020 to 2025.


The Ministry of Energy is in the process of identifying beneficiaries for its Ndawala Initiative. The Initiative is a complimentary project to the Malawi Rural Electrification Programme (MAREP) which extends the National Power Grid to the rural communities. The aim of Ndawala is to assist the less privileged households that cannot afford to do in-house wiring but may be able to buy monthly electricity tokens. The project runs inform of a soft loan where by customers are deducted 40% of electricity units purchased every month up until the total loan is recovered. This is to ensure that the less privileged    can   access       electricity.

Coupled with this, the Ministry understands that there are other very less privileged individuals who may not be able to fit in the category above and have been targeted to benefit from Solar Home Systems (SHS). These are the ultra-poor households that cannot even afford to buy electricity units even though in-house wiring has been done for them. The list of areas for such beneficiaries has been obtained from the Ministry of Gender. The Ministry of Energy work with the district level structures to meet such people and plan on how they can benefit from the Initiative. Ndawala initiative is being implemented in phases. Currently, the Ministry is in the process of implementing Ndawala II Initiative and the process is at an advance stage. Ndawala II initiative plans to electrify 12,339 beneficiaries and distribute 2000 solar home systems to ultra-poor households while Ndawala 1 initiative which was implemented in 2019, electrified 9,156 beneficiaries.

The Ministry through the Malawi Rural Electrification Programme (MAREP) plans to develop three (3) mini-grids across the country as a way of complementing grid extension in the implementation of MAREP. This is in line with the National Energy Policy (2018) and the Mini-grid Framework, 2017 which advocates for utilisation of mini-grids for sites that are beyond 10km from the grid. In view of this, the Ministry identified Usingini, Kasangazi and Gumulira as the potential sites to be implemented by MAREP using micro-hydropower mini-grid for Kasangazi and Usingini sites and Solar Power mini-grid for Gumulira site, respectively.

Kasangazi mini-grid will be developed in collaboration with UNDP, Press Trust and PML. UNDP will fund transmission and distribution network, Press Trust will fund the control system, PML will fund some wooden materials while the Ministry will fund the generation part including the power house.

In 2013, the Ministry of Energy liberalised MAREP power line construction by allowing the involvement of licensed private contractors in power line construction to complement ESCOM Limited. This led to a significant increase in the number of sites electrified per phase. By end of 2021, MAREP had registered the following achievements:

  • electrified 1,227 sites covering over 60,000 households;
  • moved the access to electricity in rural areas from less than 1% in 2003 to around 4.2%.
  • funded the construction of Wovwe (4.5MW) and Kapichira II (64MW) hydropower plants; and

extended the power distribution lines to rural growth centres such as Nthalire, Songwe Boarder, Misuku, Jenda and Likoma in the Northern Region; Kamphata, Malingunde and Mponela in the Central Region; Makanjira and Cape Maclear in the Eastern Region and Neno, Phalula, Mbulumbuzi, Maraka and Chapananga in the Southern Region.