Antonine Twagiramungu, a maize farmer in Nkuzuzu Cell, Bumbogo Sector, Gasabo District, had for long been finding it difficult to add value to his produce.
The challenge of not having access to electricity had cost him a lot – for at least five years.
According to Twagiramungu, lack of a maize milling machine in his village meant that he had no choice but to ferry his produce to another neighborhood so it could get processed into maize flour.
“I had to incur logistic and labour-related costs which ate into my would-be profits,” he told this newspaper. “I also lost a lot of time”.
However, the famer will soon no longer have to incur these costs as Rwanda Energy Group (REG) is connecting Nkuzuzu to the national grid.
“The decision was a godsend,” said Twagiramungu. “It addresses a big problem of electricity that has been affecting farmers, agro-processors and the people involved in stone quarrying in this area,” he added.
The maize farmer added: “the move will help spur agro-processing and allow farmers to make a reasonable profit from their hard work.”
Local leaders have also welcomed the development and are moving to help residents make the most of it.
Fidel Rusinga, the executive secretary for planning at Nkuzuzu Cell, said: “We are now installing maize milling machines to help add value to what we produce as a sector and expect maize farmers here to make more profits.” He added that the development will also allow for creation of jobs to the youth in the area.
REG has for the past two weeks been working round the clock to connect all residents and trading centres in and around Bumbogo to the national grid.
Fred Kagabo, the REG branch manager for Gasabo District, said the exercise is part of broader efforts spur economic activity across the country.
“This will help reduce poverty and drive the country’s economic growth,” he said.
So far, more than 350 households in this area have been connected to the national grid, he said.
Kagabo told The New Times that the objective is to connect all the households and trading centres in Bumbogo with a 3-phase line.
“We don’t want to give people electricity for lighting only but also power that will help spur economic activity and boost entrepreneurship in the areas,” he said adding that the target is to connect at least 400 households in Nkuzuzu.
REG, through its subsidiary Energy Utility Corporation Limited (EUCL), has pledged to have all the households and business entities across the country connected to power in the next seven years.
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.
Power rollout plan
During one of his recent field tours – in Kayonza District –, Eng. Weiss reaffirmed that universal access to affordable power remains the Group’s top priority and 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 newspaper, 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.
Last week, more than five trading centres in Rwimishinya, Kayonza District were connected to the national grid thanks to the ongoing electricity rollout campaign.
Last year, government revised its power rollout plan and rolled out a new strategy that seeks to extend power to the entire Kigali city in the next two years and the whole country in the next seven years.
Under its plan, dubbed ‘7-5-2’, REG wants to connect all the households in the country by 2024, productive users by 2022, and Kigali city in the next two years.
Presently, about 42 per cent of Rwanda’s population has access to power – both on-grid and off-grid solutions.
REG’s power rollout strategy is to focus more on the off-grid solutions to help achieve the 100 per cent target, 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.
REG’s power rollout strategy includes the aspect of public-private partnerships in power production efforts to help the country achieve its targets in the sector.
According to REG, more than 115,978 households will be connected to the national electricity grid while another 118,772 households are expected to access off-grid energy solutions by the end of the year.