SPONSORED: How access to reliable electricity supply is changing fortunes of businesses in Kayonza

gakuru Nsengimana is a salon operator in Rwimishinya sector, Kayonza District. The barber is currently contented and optimistic that his shop will grow after he was recently connected on the national power grid. Previously, he would spend a lot of money on fuel to power his salon, but not any more as he now has access to affordable and reliable electricity.
The power utility seeks to power productive sectors, like the welding and fabrication businesses, within the next five years. / Timothy Kisambira.
The power utility seeks to power productive sectors, like the welding and fabrication businesses, within the next five years. / Timothy Kisambira.

gakuru Nsengimana is a salon operator in Rwimishinya sector, Kayonza District. The barber is currently contented and optimistic that his shop will grow after he was recently connected on the national power grid. Previously, he would spend a lot of money on fuel to power his salon, but not any more as he now has access to affordable and reliable electricity.

Gakuru says he has been able to reduce operational costs as he no longer spends money on fuel to run the generator that he previously used to power the business. This is all thanks to government’s rural electrification programme spearheaded by Rwanda Electricity Group (REG).

In an interview with Business Times over the weekend, Gakuru noted that he was spending almost half of the profits on fuel to run a generator to power the salon.

He says he will now be able to save and reinvest some of the money in expanding the business.

Gakuru is not alone, Agnes Nyinawumutu, a coffee roaster and exporter in Rukara, Kayonza believes that access to adequate and reliable power supply will enable businesses in the district to operate at full capacity and increase production. The president of Sustainable Harvest Rwanda and Twongere Umusaruro Coffee Washing station, says the new drive by REG to connect all businesses and households in Kayonza District will spur revenues and create jobs for residents.

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Weiss (middle) and other REG officials and Kayonza leaders while touring the coffee washing station on Saturday. The plant uses solar energy. / Timothy Kisambira.

She is optimistic that the cooperative will be able to increase output and export volumes because they now have reliable power to run the factory.

Nyinawumutu says the factory has been struggling to rake in more profits with little success.

“Lack of reliable and adequate power has been a big problem and accounts for over 20 per cent losses the business made over the past five years,” she says.

So, I am hopeful that this drive will help revive businesses like ours and make them more profitable going forward, she adds.

Nyinawumutu says that the group exported roasted coffee worth Rwf24 million, last year, noting that they could have earned about Rwf50 million if we had adequate electricity to produce at maximum capacity. She adds that the challenge of lack of electricity coupled with poor road network were affecting the factory’s returns.

The washing station is currently using renewable energy solutions provided by Mobisol. “This means that the cooperative can’t install the right and modern equipment to process the coffee, which has equally affected output and revenues. However, we are hopeful that once we are connected on the grid, our production will increase,” she told REG officials who were touring the plant over the weekend.

REG comes to rescue

During the tour of businesses over the weekend, REG through its subsidiary Energy Utility Corporation Limited (EUCL) pledged to connect the coffee washing factory onto the national power grid very soon. This should give huge relief to the 160 women that depend on the washing station.

REG recently renewed the campaign to connect all households and business across the country.

According to Eng Ron Weiss, the REG chief executive, ensuring universal access to reliable and affordable electricity will, not only support business production and profitability, but also help make them more competitive.

“Universal access to affordable power is our top priority,” he said while meeting residents and business leaders in Kayonza town over the weekend.

Eng Weiss added that achieving 100 per cent power connectivity will spur and sustain Rwanda’s economic growth, making the country more attractive to investors.

In a recent interview with this publication, Weiss urged all stakeholders to focus on industrial development, saying that power generation should be driven by the need to supply manufacturers and other business and not the reverse.

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REG and Kayonza district officials during a meeting with residents. / Timothy Kisambira.

Drive to light Kayonza gains momentum

Meanwhile, five trading centres were connected to the grid over the past two weeks in Rwimishinya sector alone, five trading centres have been connected to the national grid thanks to this renewed campaign. Statistically, about 386 new consumers have been connected over the last two weeks bringing the total number of those accessing electricity in these centers to about 29,447 (34.2 per cent) customers. Jackson Mugabo, the REG Kayonza branch manager, said about 22,567 households and businesses have been so far connected on the national grid with more than 6,880 accessing electricity through off grid.

“The target is to connect another 1,156 new consumers in the next two weeks,” he explained.

Local leaders speak out

Speaking at the event, Kayonza District vice-mayor in charge of social affairs and development, Damascene Harerimana, said universal access to electricity is crucial to efforts geared at reducing poverty levels and powering Rwanda’s move toward becoming a middle-income economy.

Power rollout plan

Last year, government revised power rollout plan and embraced a new strategy that seeks to provide power to the entire Kigali city in the next two years and the whole country in the next seven years.

Under the 7-5-2 plan, REG targets to connect all the households 2024, while the productive users will have power by 2022, and capital city in the next two years.

Presently, about 42 per cent of the population has access power both on-grid and off-grid solutions, and this is seen increasing 100 per cent access in the next seven years.

REG’s strategy is to focus more on the off-grid solutions to achieve this objective, according to Eng Weiss. “The off-grid solutions are essential given the nature of geographical settlement. Besides, most households consume a lot of energy and, therefore, it is better that they are connected via off-grid,” he said.

The cost of on-grid is higher, at about $700 per connection while that of off-grid is only $65, making it more reasonable for low power users to embrace off-grid solutions.

Already, REG has unveiled a power roll out strategy that will ensure the country realises its power goals and connect all Rwandans to either the national grid or off-grid power sources. To achieve these objectives, it will require strong and public-private sector partnerships to move Rwanda towards a self-energy sufficient economy.

According to REG, more than 115,978 households will be connected on the national electricity grid and another 118,772 households are expected to access off-grid energy solutions by the end of this year.

To achieve this objective will require strong public-private partnerships, according to sector experts. This is the reason why renewable energy solutions providers need to up their game.