It is a Friday morning, May 31, 2019 and Jean Pierre Havugimana is window-shopping at a local market in Gicumbi district, Northern Rwanda
Havugimana is holding a Techno smart phone and another USSD simple phone (karasharamye).
The smart phone is off. It’s battery is down.
He is mad his smart phone has been off for the past twelve hours. He cannot chat on social media, take pictures or record some videos.
He is looking for a nearby kiosk to charge his phone at Rwf100.
Havugimana could have charged his phone at home, but in his village there is no electricity.
His village is not connected to the national electricity grid.
As he walks around the market, greeting friends and admiring merchandise displayed, Havugimana’s attention is attracted by the music playing in a large orange decorated tent a few meters away from the market.
He crosses the road.
Runs to the tent to catch a closer glimpse of hired Rwandan pop music dancers from Kigali who are entertaining the crowd.
The entertains are here to promote NOTS’ MUTIMAX Solar System (MSS) for Rwf 52,500 on credit, distributed by NOTS Solar Lamps Ltd, an impact enterprise with the goal of providing affordable electricity to about 900,000 Rwandan families.
“Wait a minute, Rwf 52,500 only?” Havugimana asks a stranger next to him to confirm whether he heard it right.
“Yes, they said Rwf 52,500, and payable in two years,” the stranger responds. “Listen carefully, they are saying that you can pay in installments, only Rwf 525 per week.”
Once the payment is completed, the family will enjoy free electricity.
At the event, Havugimana is joined by another resident, Francis Safari.
Safari is a very furious man.
He has not had electricity in house for weeks after his solar system, broke down.
He is not happy that he has to be subjected to this irritating experience, yet he has invested over Rwf 80,000 to acquire the broken solar system.
“I hope this system is better than the one I bought,” Safari tells a MUTIMAX agent. “It is even cheaper,” he adds. “Can I buy one now, I really need one. I can’t continue being in the dark and lighting agatadowa (kerosene lamp).”
The crowd is excited about this new offering in the district, as Safari and Havugimana are.
The activation of MUTIMAX Solar Systems comes to Gicumbi district, where only 10,000 of almost 400,000 people have of the population has no access to any kind of electricity.
Although there are other solar energy providers, MUTIMAX offers the cheapest 3-lamp solar system on the market, while the quality of the MUTIMAX system is equal or higher. Plus, MUTIMAX provides 3 years warranty, instead of the standard 2 years.
MUTIMAX Solar System will be piloted in three districts; Gicumbi, Rulindo and Bugesera.
The pilot comes at a time when the Northern Province itself is unveiling an electrification agenda of having 100% access to electricity by 2024, according to Ferdinand Karake, adviser to the Governor of the province.
“We thank NOTS Solar Lamps Ltd for considering the poor population. It is very crucial that the poor people can have access to electricity,” says Karake.
“We will sensitize our people to buy this kit, Rwf 525 per week is not much money. They should put it in the family performance contract. They can do it,” he adds.
The Executive Secretary of GIcumbi District, Epimaque Mpayimana, who also attended the launch, says that one of the reasons why access to electricity is low, is because of lack of financial means.
“When you get something cheap like MUTIMAX Solar System, especially for those with limited financial capacity, it is such a big relief,” he says. “This product is affordable and we think this is a huge contribution to our efforts of electricity roll out.”
Meanwhile, after the official activation, some residents immediately signed up to have their solar system delivered home.
For one to get a MSS, they must be an Airtel Money client. NOTS and Airtel have entered into agreement to facilitate Airtel Money clients to make their weekly payments of Rwf 525 in an easy way.
“I come to the market every Friday to sell my crops. I cannot fail to raise Rwf 525. This is good. I am done with moving around looking for a charging kiosk and living in a house with no electricity,” says Safari.
The MUTIMAX Solar System powers three lamps concurrently for 6 hours, plus a radio for 6 hours, plus 4 hours of mobile phone charging. The kit is more affordable, more convenient, brighter, safer and cleaner than the ‘agatadowa’ a’…(kerosene lamp).
The company has a plan to set up a manufacturing plant for MUTIMAX Solar Systems in Kigali, worth $70 million of investment, according to its CEO and Founder, Bart Hartman.