Sorry about the reasonably unexciting article that follows, but it’s the lack of these little bits of information that can cause frustration and we’re here to make sure your transition to life in Kigali goes nice and smoothly. So while this photo above of my electricity meter is not as exciting as photos of Latex Body Suits, and while the content below is nowhere near as interesting as an article on Players in Kigali… it’s got to be done.
The only electricity provider in Rwanda is the Electrogaz, which is a part of the state-owned Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA). Every house (or apartment complex) has a little electricity meter installed, where you fill up with pre-paid electricity credit, also known as ‘cash power’.
To buy cash power, you have to write down the 11-digit meter number (written on the box), and bring it to a cash power vendor. All big supermarkets will have a cash power counter, but you can also find vendors at random places throughout the city; look for an Electrogaz sign.
Once you’ve handed the nice lady or lad behind the counter your meter number and money, you will get a receipt. On this receipt is a 20-digit number, which you type into the meter, and voilà! you’ve got the power!
From time to time, the power goes out in Kigali. Before you patiently wait for it to come back on, check the electricity meter to make sure you didn’t just run out of credit. If the little window is empty, the power is out – if it shows 0.0 you need to go buy more cash power, my friend.
The water running out of your tap, is pumped up from the ground, and stored in a big water tank close to your house. Occasionally there are problems with the water, in which case you might be without water for up to a day or sometimes more. Thus – even if you live in a fancy house – keep a jerry-can of water around, so you at least can take a bucket shower in case of emergency.
You are not supposed to drink the tap water in Kigali (but Kirsty and I laugh in the face of danger and drink it anyway. Well, one cup… one time… as a dare. No nasty side effects to report.), but it’s fine to brush your teeth in it. Boil water for drinking, or get a water cleanser.
The water bill is sent to your landlord (or directly to you if you own a house), and to pay it you have to visit an EWSA office. The town office is in Centenary House (same building as Simba Supermarket), but to avoid waiting in line you might want to consider going to the less busy office in Muhima, towards Nyabugogo.
Most stoves and ovens run on gas, meaning you’ll have a big gas container somewhere in your kitchen. The gas containers usually last for months, but when you do run out you need to go to a gas station or a supermarket to buy a new one. The empty container is dropped off at the gas station or supermarket and you head off with a full one. A big container costs around Rwf 40,000.
When turning on the gas, you twist the metal wheel on top, next to where the tube connects the container to the stove. Some people twist the gas shut again after every time they use it, but personally I just keep it open at all times – I mean, what’s the chance of a leaking eh?
When you do run out, remember that the empty gas tank is a lot lighter than the new, full one that will replace it. So you’ll probably need a car or taxi and big, strong housemates to make the swap from empty to full.