The mention of water and electricity strikes a chord with everyone; be it a domestic house help striving to fulfil their daily chores or the industrialist looking forward to rolling out the finished product down the production line.
No wonder the issue of water and electricity has occasioned an impassioned debate in the populace. It is usually a case of 'scarce' or 'too expensive' for the two vital utilities.
However it has not just been the utilities alone but also the body charged with their distribution and management that has brought to it unwanted attention.
My grandfather still refers to the energy and water authority as Regidezo (Regies des'eau) for that is what it was known as back in the colonial times. The body was later to change its name to Electrogaz, a name that has refused to go away despite being discarded a decade ago.
In 2003, the then Electrogaz was placed under the management of a German company; Lahmayer International. The plan was to revamp it in five years. Two years later government cancelled the contract and repossessed the company.
It was then split into two companies Reco (Rwanda Electricity Corporation) and RWASCO (Rwanda Water and Sanitation Corporation). From Electrogaz, the new catchword was Reco/Rwasco.
This was also to change in 2010 when the two institutions were merged to form the Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA). And, just this week, Cabinet again split EWSA into two companies; the Energy Holding Company that will manage energy development and electricity distribution, and the Water and Sanitation Company which will manage water resources and distribution both in the rural and urban areas.
The changes that have characterised this parastatal may seem like a case of poor planning or lack of a defined vision for the sector but if the changes are occasioned by the desire to make the institution perform better then be it. Sometimes it takes invention, reinvention and innovation to come to close to perfection.
Talking about the latest split, Infrastructure minister Prof. Silas Lwakabamba was candid: "It was clear that EWSA needed reform. There was no proper planning. Combining water and energy management left it without a clear focus."
This was clear to all and sundry. Refocusing the mandates of the two institutions should be the start of serious work to revamp the sector.
Rwanda's growth targets for water and energy are well documented in the different strategy papers like the EDPRS II and Vision 2020. And time seems not to be the best ally.
The Government of Rwanda's target is to deliver clean water to 100 per cent of the population by 2017. Currently, hovering around 75 per cent, there is need for 'a gear shift' if this feat is to be achieved and I want to believe that the changes witnessed this week are precisely in this direction.
Water shortage in the City of Kigali is now a detestable cliché. There is urgent need to overhaul the city's water network to curtail non revenue water (commercial and technical water loss). EWSA has been losing about Rwf5 billion annually as a result.
Insufficient energy supply poses a serious challenge to the country's efforts to industrialise. The down-time of electricity supply is hurting many businesses.
Efforts have been made to put in place a friendly tariff structure for industrial customers but a more sustainable solution should be sought. The solution lies in increasing power generation, whether it's with methane, peat, geothermal or hydro.
The work for the new Power and Energy Holding Company is cut out. As the country strives to achieve middle income status in just a few years time, energy will play a crucial role.
The targets are clear; the country is looking to increase access to electricity to 70 per cent by 2018, up from the current 17 per cent. In absolute figures production is expected to increase from the current 110 megawatts to 563 megawatts by 2018. Let the real work begin.
The writer is a journalist based in Kigali.