By 2017 the solar lamps market in Africa will be booming, according to SunnyMoney, a social enterprise that sells solar lights in off-grid communities in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. Founded 6 years ago, in March SunnyMoney sold its millionth solar light benefiting some 6 million people.
With 598 million living without electricity in rural Africa, the growth potential for the solar lamps market is enormous, but challenges are equally big. A major difficulty has been reaching out to remote villages with poor infrastructure, basic retail networks and only a handful of potential customers. “We needed a model that would allow us to cover vast, sparsely populated areas with weak transport links and communication infrastructure,” says an analysis of the Tanzanian market. There were also issues of trust in an unknown technology, and price. Sold at US$ 10, solar lamps pay for themselves after 12 weeks and last for five years. But they are an important investment for families in some of the poorest communities in the world.
To overcome the obstacles, SunnyMoney begun to work with head teachers to promote the lamps with parents and students. “Once people see a neighbour’s light shining bright, demand grows. We then engage local agents to stock and sell solar products,” says CEO Steve Andrews. Thanks to this direct marketing strategy, SunnyMoney says to have gone from selling less than 1,000 solar lights per month in 2010 to 50,000 in 2014…
The full story was published on Sun & Wind Energy magazine (available on subscription) in May 2014. Photo © SunnyMoney.