It’s 7am on a Saturday and our 4×4 is escaping Kigali’s early morning traffic heading south towards the Burundi border. I have the pleasure in joining the photographer Jacques Nkinzingabo on a full day photo shoot at two of our recently installed solar nanogrids. Leaving a busy start-up schedule behind for a day, it’s a chance to spend time with our clients and learn how MeshPower’s electricity service now impacts their lives.
Having touched down in the village Jacques and I go door to door interviewing and photographing MeshPower customers. We are welcomed with happy smiles, thank yous and handshakes, plus a diversity of stories about how electricity access has transformed customers’ lives for the better. Mrs Pharazie, who runs a tailoring business with her husband, cheerfully welcomes us into her shop, full of colourful wraps and clothes. The bright light that the MeshPower’s LED tubes give out is particularly useful to her, as sewing requires close work and visual precision. As with all the customers we spoke to, she exuded a sense of pride and enhanced self-esteem about her new electricity connection.
In search of the perfect picture, Jacques chatted with his models as they posed. He noted that these people were much more open and receptive compared to those in other rural villages he has visited, making his work much easier and enjoyable. Some villagers were even giving him instructions on how he should take the shots of them! The automatic display on the camera showing the images taken straight away was definitely the highlight for the villagers.
The most memorable part of the day is when the sun sets and the whole village lights up. Shops, restaurants and bars do not close but instead spring to life as farmers from the surrounding areas come to the village to do their daily shopping. Customers share their light with the farmers or ‘light nomads’ who sell their crops on the street under the light of adjacent MeshPower customers.
Late at night we drive back to Kigali through the Rwandan back country. We pass villages and houses submerged in darkness with no electricity. It sounds cheesy but only once you experience it for yourself can you comprehend what difference basic electricity services can make. Fuelled with vivid memories, it’s now time to tackle the estimated 9million people currently sitting in the dark in Rwanda and beyond.