Let there be light: Remote Manda island set to get electricity


Only a few individuals and institutions in Lamu that have had the privilege to install solar panels.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Only a few individuals and institutions in Lamu that have had the privilege to install solar panels.
  • Lamu West MP Stanley Muthama said once the project will mark an end to the power supply woes.

Since independence, people living in Manda Island which incorporates Ras Kitau, Manda-Maweni, and Manda Airport in Lamu have been relying on traditional means for their energy needs.

It is only a few individuals and institutions, including the Manda Airport, a major amenity in the entire Lamu region, that have had the privilege to install solar panels or rely on diesel power generators.

About five years ago, the national government through the Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (Rerec), commenced a project to connect the area to the national grid.

However, only 65 per cent of the Sh200 million project, which was to benefit 1,200 households on the remote island, has been completed so far.

Speaking to the Nation.Africa, the residents of Manda termed the move to connect the island with the national power grid as a new dawn to them but called on the government to fast-track implementation.

Mohamed Yusuf Suleiman, the Manda Island Senior Chief, pleaded with the government to fast-track the project, saying it will help revolutionise trade and boost the living standards of the locals among other activities in the area.

Mr Suleiman expressed optimism that once the national power grid electricity is connected to the island, the decades-old challenges and sufferings will be put to an end.

“We’re happy for the ongoing electricity connectivity project on our island. We’ve lived in darkness here for over six decades. You can imagine using traditional wood for our energy needs and using lamps and candlelight for all that long,” said Mr Suleiman.

“I am confident once the electricity connectivity project is over, our small-scale traders in Manda, including ‘mama mboga’ (grocers) will benefit greatly and expand their businesses. Let the project be fast-tracked," he added.

Rerec General Manager, Power Distribution and Regional Coordination, James Muriuki, told Nation.Africa that though the project started in 2019 when the tender was floated, the contract was signed in 2021 and its implementation experienced some delays.

According to Dr Muriuki, some of the challenges encountered were due to the requirements for design readjustment.

“The project has seen some delays due to many uncertainties. Only around 65 per cent has been done. There were changes in design for the section crossing the Manda airport and the ocean crossings where four towers, as opposed to two, will be required to support the tension and the suspension forces,” he said.

He explained that the redesigns will require an additional budget, but it is projected to be completed by February 2025.

Mr Robinson Mwambingu, a resident of Ras Kitau, hopes that once completed, the project will open up the tiny island to more trade, business, and investment opportunities.

The project is also expected to lower crime and insecurity as local gangs have taken advantage of the darkness to rob and maim both residents and visitors.

“We’ve had cases of thefts and mugging in this place. All because there’s no electricity. Criminals used to take advantage of the darkness to carry on with their evils. Once lit, Manda Island will be a peace haven,” said Mr Mwambingu.

Lamu West MP Stanley Muthama said once the project is done, it will mark an end to the power supply woes faced by residents on the island ever since it was discovered many years ago.

“Connecting Manda Island to the national grid for the first time since it was discovered will be history that we’ve all been looking forward to. The project is currently at an advanced stage. It’s crucial to the economy of Manda Island and the entire Lamu West Constituency,” said Mr Muthama.