Solar technologies such as photo voltaic home systems portable lamps and solar mobile phone charging systems use solar power to provide affordable electrical energy to isolated communities. Solar can charge through the day using the sun’s rays and provide hours of light after dark.
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In most rural places in the developing world there is no electrical supply at night to light up homes, streets, schools and hospital. Children cannot see to learn and adults cannot be productive. Solar power can also be used to run other pieces of equipment such as computers and refrigerators.
We support small businesses selling and distributing simple solar technologies which are improving the quality of lives of thousands of people.
Bringing Pay-As-You-Go Solar to Rwanda
Rwanda, 83% of the population has no access to grid electricity. The availability of off-grid lighting solutions, such as solar PV systems, is limited due to the high upfront costs of home installation, which lie beyond the reach of poorer households. The pay-as-you-go approach, similar to that of mobile phone top-ups, offers an affordable way to adopt clean energy.
GVEP is working with Azuri technologies to support the roll-out of pay-as-you-go solar power in Rwanda. With a grant of $1Million from USAID’s ‘Development Innovation Ventures’ (DIV), the project will enable growth in Rwanda’s solar market and provide a replicable template for other countries with low access to electricity.
The money is being used to create local distribution channels and supply 10,000 Indigo PAYG systems, after which it will continue to grow under its own finance.
“We will be training small regional retailers and agents on sales techniques and general business skills, and advice the in-country distributor on their marketing strategy and its implementation”, explains David Disch, GVEP’s Country Manager for Rwanda.
GVEP is working with Azuri and a local distributor to finalize the business model and will be performing detailed research to evaluate the project’s social and economic benefits. The economic breakdown of the different distribution channels and customer segments will be reviewed to build the case for private financing of large scale roll-outs in off-grid pay-as-you-go solar solutions in Rwanda, benefiting around 10,000 households, giving improved and clean lighting and additional phone charging services for the same price as current household energy expenditure on kerosene and disposable dry-cell batteries.
The long term goal of the project is to sell one million Indigo units over 5 years, benefiting 5 million people in Rwanda and elsewhere, leading to reductions of 50% or more in household energy costs, cheaper and more convenient phone charging, improved health and safety, and more productive hours in a day for homework, domestic tasks and income generating activities.
Solar lights available in rural Senegal
With over 500,000 lamps sold since 2010 SunnyMoney, the social enterprise of SolarAid, 2013 winner of the prestigious Asden Awards, is the single largest provider of solar lights in Africa. With support from GVEP, SolarAid has secured extra financing from the World Bank, to run a pilot project distributing pico-solar light products to schools in Senegal, which students can rent at a token cost.
GVEP has assisted the implementation of the project by contacting distributors, helping with geographic scoping and providing public and private sector contacts. The support GVEP gave for the geographic scoping helped in choosing the specific regions and schools to be targeted.
To date, the project has delivered solar lights (both entry level and some larger products) to 34 schools in Kaolack and 24 schools in Kaffrine. Each school received around 75 products and a total of 6,115 students have been reached this way. Students can choose between renting a small lamp for three days, for a fee of 5 CFA Francs (1 USD cent) or alternatively pay 25 CFA (5 USD cents) for one of the bigger models with phone charging capability.
Community Chiefs and Head teachers alike are said to be enthused by the increased opportunities these solar lamps will bring to younger members of the community, both in terms of improved study and health benefits.
Making solar lanterns accessible to women in rural Kenya
Women Enterprise Development Institute (WEDI) is a fund manager for a portfolio of 850 women’s savings and credit groups operating in the larger Central Province of Kenya. WEDI’s objectives are to mobilize group savings and improve lending amongst members in order to reduce dependence from donor funding and create their own funds for socio economic development.
The group has a ‘Project’ component through which member groups are introduced to various products that individual members can buy with their savings. This presented a good energy business opportunity for WEDI. Between 2009 and early 2010, discussions to start a supplier guarantee arrangement among GVEP, WEDI and a solar portable lantern (SPL) supplier culminated in the signing of a tripartite partnership agreement.
Under the arrangement the supplier provides SPLs to WEDI, who in turn creates awareness to the groups as well as to the community. Being the Fund Managers, WEDI collects a deposit of 50% of the cost of the SPL; the other 50% is paid in three equal installments. WEDI delivers the SPLs to the group members, tracks loans and collects the 50% down payment. GVEP organized training for 20 Loan Officers from WEDI to equip them with technology skills on SPL products.
In 2011 WEDI requested GVEP to help them secure a second supplier, as their previous one did not have enough products for the demand created by WEDI’s members. GVEP identified Sollatek Electronics Kenya Ltd who has sole distributorship of d.light solar products in Kenya. A second tripartite agreement was signed between WEDI, Sollatek and GVEP. To date WEDI has sold a total of 1,470 solar lanterns under this partnership.
In September 2012, this agreement was extended further to include energy efficient cook stoves in the products offered to WEDI's members. The cookstoves are supplied through Paradigm Kenya, the third party in this agreement, that manufactures and sells efficient firewood cookstoves to households in rural and peri-urban Kenya. Between September 2012 to date WEDI has sold approximately 1,850 improved cookstoves – a mixture of Jiko Poa, Envirofit M 5000, Envirofit G3300 and the Easy Stove.
The partnership with GVEP International has acted as a stepping stone for WEDI, increasing their knowledge and networks within the energy sector. As a result they have been able to extend their solar lantern product range further with new suppliers outside of the GVEP agreement.
Helping phone charging businesses provide vital services in rural Tanzania
Frank Gilbert lives in Mahina, a rural settlement with no access to the national electricity grid, on the outskirts of Mwanza, Tanzania. Like other residents, Frank would travel several kilometres to reach an electricity point to charge his mobile phone. This was costly and time-consuming. However, Frank turned a challenge into a business opportunity. He set up a phone charging kiosk using a 65W solar panel, with instant benefits for him, as well as the community.
To set up the business, Frank initially invested his own savings into a small solar panel and all the necessary equipment. GVEP provided with the technical expertise, and knowledge of marketing and customer care. Frank now promotes his business with a written sign at the top of his shop, and through leaflets. This is far more effective than just advertising by word of mouth.
Due to an increased customer demand, Frank applied for a loan from Wadoki Sacco for a bigger panel worth US$ 600. GVEP helped Frank to secure the loan through its Loan Guarantee Fund. He was also connected to Zara Solar one of GVEP’s partner, by which he is able to buy good quality solar lanterns at a wholesale price. He has been able to achieve his goals of starting a second phone-charging kiosk and increasing his net profit, some of which he sends to his parents who live in a different area. “I am only 22,” Frank says. “But by the time I am 25 I hope to be a big businessman with a big family!”
Bringing solar PV within reach in Uganda
Kennedy Matovu is a co-founder and director of Sun Limit, a solar products and installation business with branches in Kachanga, Mbarara and Entebbe, Uganda.
A trained electrician with a specialization in solar energy, Kennedy worked for 11 years before starting Sun Limit in 2008. The initial start-up cost of US$1,176 came from personal savings.
GVEP offered Kennedy technology, business and marketing training. “We realised that book keeping, mentoring and coaching kept us focused. Previously we never used to record transactions. We also learnt to take quality assurance seriously,” says Kennedy.
GVEP also provided access to a strong network of other entrepreneurs.
As most of their customers are from rural areas, Kennedy and his team have boosted their marketing efforts by targeting local council meetings and churches to give talks to demonstrate solar products. To ensure customer satisfaction, Sun Limit does its own research on products before stocking them and offers feedback to suppliers. As is the case with most small-scale entrepreneurs, Kennedy says that obtaining lines of finance has been their toughest obstacle. Having applied in the past, he was unsuccessful because he did not have suitable collateral, such as a land title, as required by the banks.
Through GVEP’s Loan Guarantee Fund, Kennedy applied for and was approved for a UGX 10 million loan (ca. US $ 3,800), administered through a local micro-finance institution (FINCA). The loan is instrumental to the expansion of his business