12 November 2012

Rwanda: Tunisia-Rwanda Cooperation Makes Rural Electrification a Success Story

Photo: SteveRwanda/Wikipedia
Kigali, Rwanda (file photo).

More than fifty thousand Rwandans living in rural areas of Rwamagana, Kayonza, Nyagatare, Ngoma, Gatsibo and Kirehe in the Eastern Province now have electricity thanks to the Government's rural electrification project.

The work in Eastern Province is being executed by STEG International Services (SIS), a subsidiary of the Tunisian Electricity and Gas Company (Société Tunisienne de l'Electricité et du Gaz, STEG), in partnership with EWSA, and funded by the Government of Rwanda.

STEG, which has over 50 years of experience in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and gas, carried out Tunisia's own rural electrification project, increasing access to electricity to more than 99% of the population, from just 6% in 1976.

The STEG-EWSA partnership

SIS was created by STEG in 2006 with as its main mission, according to the Deputy Director General, is the development and capitalization of knowledge and sharing it with other African states. "Most African countries have set increasing access to electricity as a target to spur their economic growth and we are ready to share our experience with the sister companies," Korked observes.

EWSA clearly took note, because in 2008 the public utility (then Electrogaz) signed a contract with SIS to undertake a rural electrification project in the East. In 2009, SIS started the pilot project in Nyagatare district.

"It was successful and consolidated the confidence in the partnership," added Korked.

The pilot project saw 4,200 houses get connected to a newly installed network, using a technology known as MALT system which uses a combination of the three-phase and single-phase distribution system, hence having an edge over the existing sys-tem which uses only the three-phase system, and achieving up to 35% as a rate of gain in the investment costs depending on the region to be electrified.

The MALT System is widely used in North of America, Canada and Australia. The introduction of the single-phase distribution in rural areas represents a way well adapted to the needs of rural households, that they can reduce their consumption of electricity by using adapted equipments to single phase system. This system is also easy to implement, easy to maintain and presenting a great flexibility of operation, so it has a low cost to be maintained.

How STEG connected the East

In September 2009, after the successful pilot in Nyagatare, SIS offered to help EWSA conduct a free survey on the possibility of extending the project to the entire province. Though the findings were entirely positive, SIS pointed out that most of the rural residents who the Government sought to connect were living far away on rugged mountainous terrain; if they were to benefit, they should have to move closer to where the proposed network was to pass. In that case, about 50,000 connections would be possible.

The Government agreed and with the help of local authorities, people have been encouraged to move in settlements (imidugudu).

In November 2010, SIS and EWSA signed a new agreement to develop a network on which at least 50,000 connections would be made. After a final executive study conducted between January and June 2011 and approved by EWSA in July, SIS began construction in August 2011.

"Most African countries have set increasing access to electricity as a target to spur their economic growth and we are ready to share our experience with the sister companies."

By August 2012, SIS had managed to connect more than 42,000 buildings to the new network, representing about 90% of the work with five months to spare of the 26 months agreed in the contract ( January 2011 to March 2013). The remaining 8000, SIS reckons, will be connected by December.

Those connected include homes, businesses, cooperatives and small factories in the region: 12,284 connections in Nyagatare; 12,274 in Ngoma and Kirehe; 9,075 in Gatsibo; and 9,277 in Rwamagana and Kayonza. The new network comprises of 560km of middle voltage, 650km of low voltage and 500 substations/transformers installed.

Capacity and skills building

The SIS-EWSA partnership has not only benefited local residents. As a way of improving EWSA's capacity, over 100 selected employees have been trained in technical skills on site with ample opportunities for practice.

These have since replaced the bulk of the Tunisians that had travelled to Rwanda to initially do the work. Currently, 50 Tunisians have gone back home and have been replaced by local workers trained by SIS.

In addition, 30 senior EWSA employees were sent to Tunisia for training in various areas including grid planning and development, safety, training of trainers skills and many others.

Over 1,000 Rwandans are also providing casual labor in the ongoing electrification process of their area. Moreover, local suppliers have owned the project as they supply the bulk of the materials the company needs to do the job.

To ensure safety of beneficiaries, SIS is working with EWSA to create a user manual to help avoid accidents that could endanger their lives while using electricity.

With the successful implementation of the rural electrification program in the Eastern Province, SIS might head South next where they are already carrying out free studies on behalf of EWSA.

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