A Women’s Network Brings Essential Solar-Power to Rural Africa

$1,000,000 | Stage 2: Testing at Scale | Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment | Environment & Global Climate Change | Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania

The problem: Lack of access to power, particularly in Africa, is growing

In sub-Saharan Africa, 590 million people live without access to an electrical power grid, a number that is projected to increase over the next 30 years. While African governments are working toward reducing the number of people without access to electricity, these efforts are being outstripped by population growth. Without electricity, the ultra-poor are denied access to critical technologies, services and education opportunities that could close the yawning gap between them and the rest of the world.  It is difficult to study or run a business at night.

Currently, large segments of the continent’s population rely on hazardous forms of energy, such as kerosene and wood, which produce low levels of light, pose the risk air quality related health conditions, and increase the probability of fire incidents by 2.7 to 5.2 percent over 5 years and burn injuries by 0.12 to 0.14 percent over just one month. Consumers without access to the electricity grid also pay higher costs for energy than any other group of consumers in Africa.

The solution: Draw on networks of local female entrepreneurs to sell solar-powered products

Solar Sister

Solar light improves public health, mitigates climate change, increases productive hours for small businesses and helps empower children to study even after sunset, but it is often difficult to reach consumers in the most remote areas. Solar Sister solves this problem by using a micro-consignment model that recruits and trains networks of entrepreneurs from remote areas who sell clean energy products in their communities.

These Solar Sister Entrepreneurs are provided with a “business in a bag”— inventory, sales training and marketing support. Unlike other micro-franchising models, entrepreneurs are loaned the inventory and make payments on the sum loaned to them after securing their first sales, creating better incentives for women who are poor and new to business to participate.

The potential: Cost-effectiveness, impact and implications

Through this scalable, market-based innovation that brings clean rural energy to rural households where traditional distribution channels do not exist, the Solar Sister network is creating substantial economic benefits for female entrepreneurs through sales commissions and for households through cost savings and decreased risks from kerosene use.

With DIV support, Solar Sister is recruiting and training 3,000 entrepreneurs to sell 315,000 solar lights and mobile phone chargers. These entrepreneurs will improve public health, expand economic opportunity and provide clean energy products to 1.6 million Africans in rural Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan.

Learn more

Check out the latest news from Solar Sister here.


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Last updated: August 28, 2015

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