Denis Achiri had just recently acquired a new 32-inch Samsung flat screen television and home theatre. He estimates that the electronic appliances cost him around Rwf450,000.
Then, last month, Achiri left home for work in the morning but returned to find his appliances damaged.
Apparently, during the day, there had been a power surge after an outage and the result was damage to the sockets at his home and the appliances.
“I left home at round 8:30am; usually I leave the fridge on because there are some perishables but it has a fridge-guard. However, my home theatre, including the TV, uses a normal adapter. When I returned home and turned on the TV that was working perfectly well the previous day, it failed to start. I tried everything but nothing worked,” he say.
“I contacted an engineer friend who came and told me that they were both “fried” (damaged).”
Worse for Achidri is that he can only lament his loss as he doesn’t know who to report or where to report.
Persistent power outages have become a common trend in Kigali and fears are rising on how to protect electronics.
The power outages are part of a wider electricity problem that the city is currently facing.
Maurice Rutembesa, who operates three milk shops, faced the same ordeal when a fridge in one of the shops got damaged and that came after a lot of milk had been going bad because of power outage.
“I have three milk selling points in Kigali. However, because of the losses I incur, I have not been able to make enough money to pay my staff. When you consider a damaged fridge, it becomes a puzzle on how to balance the situation. We need a solution urgently,” he says.
Rutembesa might be struggling but Illdephose Munyuza’s metal fabrication workshop in Gikondo that used to be a din of noise is now as silent as a coffin.
Pain for metal fabricators
Although no equipment has been damaged, the 25-man labour force spend the better part of the day idle.
“Sometimes we have no electricity all day and can’t work. Even the unreliability is not good because we lose customers to fabricators with generators or operate from areas that are less affected. It becomes difficult when you can’t take anything home because there was no work all day,” said Jean Claude Mbarimo.
The metal fabricators say sometimes it is pointless to come to work not knowing if they will make any money and instead opt to go for casual work which is at least guaranteed depending on what one does.
Authorities have tried to explain the power outage as best they can, but solution seems far from coming.
Bosco Mugiraneza, the chief executive of Rwanda Energy Group, says the outage is down to many factors, but advises power consumers to protect their appliances.
“Power outages depend on many factors such as under-frequency, overloaded transformers, long feeders and old infrastructure. Customers should protect their appliances, equipment and machines against over current and voltage,” he said.
The public can lodge complaints related to electronics damaged as a result of power flactuations and outages with the Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authority (RURA).
The utility has a customer unit where cases of damaged electronic appliances due to power surge can be reported.
Such cases are supposed to be subsequently taken up by the concerned staff and investigated.
After investigations have confirmed that the damage was caused by power outages, they approach the operator together with the customer to find a solution.