by Mikolaj Czerwinski
Some people may ask why we should bring electricity to isolated villages. How will they use it? Do they even have electrical appliances? Well, we went to see how electricity has impacted the lives of the villagers in of Nyamyunba, close to Gisenyi in northern Rwanda and we found some unexpected results.
Electricity was used in most places we thought about. It greatly helped the local administration which now uses computers and internet saving hours of write machine and days of posted mails. It is also used at the local school allowing night classes as well as in the nearby health centre. Finally, it made life easier and cheaper for the householders. The cost of lighting (they used candles before then) and charging batteries has significantly decreased.
What we did not foresee is the business opportunities and the social impact electricity has brought. Even if they have limited resources, the entrepreneurs of Nyamyunba exploit at best what they have. We met with Fabrice, 22 years old, who owns a small cinema. He invested in a TV and DVD player and screens action movies twice a day. He already has recovered his investment and now enjoys the profit of his successful cinema.
Like Fabrice, other young men of the village have opened a computer centre, haircut salons, grinding machine shop…. The best part was yet to come! When we got back to the village at night, we discovered it had become ‘the place 2B’ for all the surrounding villages. You could hear the radio for a mile around, shops were opened, and people got together. With three amazungus (white people) walking around, children started dancing to the music and parents laughing at them. Electricity made the night an entertainment time!
As we drove back home, we crossed some villages who had no access to electricity. It was dark and dead calm. The contrast with Nyamyunba was shocking and inspiring; there is still some more work to do in electrifying rural Rwanda…