It’s now a year since Bweyeye dwellers have been connected to the grid. The place is located on the other side of Nyungwe forest in Rusizi District with several kilometers off the main road. It was previously considered as one of the remotest and most isolated centers in Rwanda.
The area had no electricity until August 2017, when power reached the sector in fulfillment of a promise President Paul Kagame made when he visited the area back in 2013. Since then, a project to electrify Bweyeye sector was initiated through Rwanda Energy Group under the Ministry of Infrastructure. Thanks to the African Development Bank support under the Scaling up Energy Access Project in the Energy Access Roll-Out Program. After the electrification of Bweyeye sector, many small businesses like saloons, video libraries, bars and photocopying services sprung up in the trading center.
When good news came to Ali Suleiman Mugisha who runs photography among photocopying services at Kamembe Town in Rusizi, he immediately decided to expand his operations to the place. From there, the businessman established similar services and computer maintenance to enable people get services near. Previously, residents would get the services from neighbouring sectors.
“These are some of the services people would need. Previously, before households got connected to electricity, whoever needed to duplicate or print a document would travel to the neighboring sectors. It was so challenging. Electricity connectivity created more opportunities,” Mugisha said. He also added that for businessmen working hours had increased unlike previously when they would be forced to close their activities earlier.
Though she completed her studies in sciences last year, Geradissa Mukamugambi who is 20 was not ashamed to join her colleagues to start a saloon. Mukamugambi did Maths, Economics and Geography at Groupe Scolaire Kitabi in Nyamagabe District.
She and her colleagues completed senior six studies shortly after their residential area had already been connected to electricity. They were proud of the progress. It was time for them to think about how they could benefit from it.
“Among my colleagues we graduated together, we thought of how we could benefit from electricity by creating our own jobs. We were a team of seven people. Shaving was the idea that came into our minds because no other saloons were established at the time. Some of us had an experience in shaving but others needed trainings,”she explained.
After a certain period of training, Mukamugambi became good at shaving. Per month, she earns Rwf 50,000.
The development also enabled residents of Bweyeye to invest into milling, hairdressing, welding among other ventures that required them to travel long distance. Again, the residents witnessed that electricity has improved education quality because the students are studying at ease.
Emmanuel Habimana, the Executive Secretary of Bweyeye sector, said that electricity has changed many things in different facilities such hospitals, and schools among others. He noted that health centers, administrative offices and schools have mostly benefited from the development. “It was a puzzle for leaders to make reports. It required them to travel to Rusizi district in Kamembe town to type and print the reports. This would affect service delivery because once the citizens came to the offices they wouldn’t get the right person they came to see. Health centers also have benefited a lot because their works run day and night. Children now get enough time to revise their courses. Obviously, electictricity has impacted our economy. Residents started businesses. Electricity has accelerated the development of technology,” Habimana said.
He added previously residents would travel long to get services that need electricity and that since the place is near the forest no person would step out at 6:00 o’clock. According to him, Bweyeye seemed to be a place where no one wishes to dwell but today many people are coming to reside due to its rapid development and job opportunities.
Joseph Ntwari, the Rwanda Energy Group Branch Manager in Rusizi District, said that the project to electrify the sector is near to the end and so far 1000 households have already been connected. “We are accelerating our activities to distribute electricity to more households across Bweyeye and other sectors of Rusizi District including among others Butare, Gikundamvura, Nyakabuye and Bugarama,” Ntwari noted.
During the 2018/2019 fiscal year, REG targets to connect 5459 households across Rusizi District. In the ongoing journey to reach the target of connecting all households in Rwanda by 2024, the percentage of access to electricity in Rusizi district currently nears 50% while the national access rate is 46.46%.
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