Less than a year ago, Karekezi François said he used to spend more on traveling to salon de coiffure than the shave itself cost. Thus for him to have a haircut or at least shave his ever growing beard, the 55 years old would have to plan a visit to Byumba town. That was a time when the trade Centre in his vicinity had no electricity and thus activities would come to standstill at night fall.
When he recalls this time which he refers to “the backward days”, it feels like a story of the old but in reality the conditions him and those before him had endured until about 10 months ago when electricity first made its way to Yaramba Sector. “when I tell this story, everyone is amazed as if I speak of a period they know nothing about. However it is only because everything happened so fast and the benefits have been tremendous that no one wants to face back into that past that they pretend to have forgotten in such a short time”, Karekezi offered clearly speaking from the status of someone well informed about the matter.
It was during a recent Energy Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) accountability day in Gicumbi district of Northern Rwanda. At the annual ceremony which for the fourth time was held on November 9th, Rwanda’s utility Authority spares time to analyze what the particular year has wrought accounting for the services they have rendered to those the company is meant to serve while at the same time giving customers time to criticize, identify loopholes and forge ways to fill them.
The timing of the event has for the fourth time again been at the end of the year signifying its role in facilitating the planning process for the following year. “We use this once in a year occasion to hear from our customers and understand their compliments as well as complaints for the work we do.
This serves to inform us of where we need to change, what the clients’ suggestions for us to offer the best services to their satisfaction are, and where we need to fasten in order to maintain achievements”, Ntare Karitanyi the Director General of EWSA noted. At the occasion, the Gicumbi branch of EWSA for instance had an opportunity to hear from what their respective customers were unhappy about.
Some of the customers raised issued regarding limited access to water while others demanded electricity upgrades in their respective localities. “We have the electricity but it is too low to run some of the medium factories that have been born in the recent past hence limiting us in what we can be able to operate”, Semana Jean Pierre a resident of Kabuga sector noted. Explaining the case, Gilbert Rubayita the Branch Manager of EWSA Gicumbi scored that about two years ago, the company embarked on connecting more neighborhoods on the grid with the aim of ensuring that more people gain access to electricity.
However as a result of the transformational power of electricity, the monophasic electric lines and meters that were used in the connections are no longer sufficient to serve the big trading centres that have emerged since then.
“Today all the small neighborhoods that got electricity connections two years ago have completely changed growing into bigger trading centres. We are already focused to improve the connections in order to raise capacity on the lines so as to sufficiently support high energy demanding machines like the ones Semana speaks of”, Rubayita explained. And indeed following the stories of change that Karekezi and many more others recalled during the half day event, electricity has had a great impact on the lives of many in not only Gicumbi but Rwanda as a whole. Through concluded projects, Rubayita offered that Gicumbi District currently has 30 percent access to electricity while expressing optimism that when ongoing connections become operational, access will increase to at least 80 percent. “This we plan to achieve latest before the end of next year 2014”.Currently, access to electricity in Rwanda is at 18 percent but efforts are being made to raise the value to 70 percent across the country by the year 2017.