Household Solar Workforce Development Challenge

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A man installs solar panels on a roof
Fenix International

The Household Solar Workforce Development Challenge awarded $350,000 in grant funding to support scalable, innovative, third-party training solutions to the off-grid solar home system sector's workforce needs in sub-Saharan Africa. USAID, as part of its commitment to the Scaling Off-Grid Energy (SOGE) Grand Challenge for Development, is supporting the Household Solar Workforce Development Challenge run by the ResilientAfrica Network (RAN).

The Problem

A man in a shop

Off-grid solar home systems (SHS) are an emerging solution to provide access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), the off-grid solar sector globally has an estimated annual growth rate of 140% that is primarily driven by pay-as-you-go (PAYG) business models and 'plug-and-play' solar home system technology. With continued growth, the sector could support up to 1.3 million full­-time equivalent jobs by 2022. Hiring and retaining qualified employees has been challenging for many SHS companies. Challenges include lack of candidates with appropriate technical and “soft skills,” lack of relevant and context-based curricula on off-grid systems at the certificate level, the inability of the sector to compete for fresh graduates with higher-paying established companies, high-performing employees being poached by competitors, and a lack of capital to invest in the continued training and professional development of current employees. Furthermore, in Africa, SHS solutions are often deployed in rural and remote areas where it can be even harder to attract and retain staff.

About the Challenge:

People carrying a solar panel
Rachel Couch for Power Africa

Third-party organizations that focus on training workers for the off-grid solar home system sector offer a viable—and potentially more efficient and effective—workforce development solution, but are not yet widely supported or utilized.

The specific objectives of this funding window were to identify and support scalable, innovative, third-party training solutions to the off-grid solar home system sector's workforce needs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Meet the Winners:

ResilientAfrica Network (RAN,) in partnership with USAID and as part of its commitment to the Scaling Off-Grid Energy (SOGE) Grand Challenge for Development, is proud to announce two winners of the Household Solar Workforce Development Challenge: Global Distributors Collective (GDC) and Whitten & Roy Partnership (WRP). These two organizations will implement awards totaling USD $350,000 that support scalable, innovative, third-party training solutions to the off-grid solar home system sector's workforce in sub-Saharan Africa. Through these trainings, participants will be able to efficiently and sustainably respond to market needs.

GDC logo

Global Distributors Collective (GDC) is dedicated to supporting and representing last mile distribution companies, to help them reach unserved customers with life-changing off-grid solar products. Bopinc, one of the three implementing partners of the GDC, will receive an award of USD $200,000 to engage off-grid household solar companies in East and West Africa. The GDC, with the support of the African Management Institute (AMI), will design and deliver a combination of on- and offline training that is tailored to the needs and priorities of last mile distribution organizations while also fostering a community of practice to facilitate peer- to-peer learning between companies, on the topics of last mile sales, marketing techniques, and more. The fully developed training will be offered to the off-grid solar sector at an affordable, low-cost.

WRP logo

Whitten & Roy Partnership (WRP), based out of Knoxville, Tennessee, will receive an award of $150,000 to engage pay-as-you-go off-grid household solar companies in Francophone countries across sub-Saharan Africa. WRP will develop training solutions to improve participants’ capacity in sales strategy, hiring, management, coaching and training to enhance workforce performance, customer satisfaction, and lower workforce turnover. The transformational training program will be made available to the sector through a cost-efficient, cohort-based approach.

Challenge Partners:

The ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) headquartered at Makerere University is a research and innovation network currently operating in 20 African Universities in 13 countries across sub-Saharan Africa. RAN is strengthening the resilience of vulnerable communities using innovative, evidence-based approaches developed in collaboration with university students, faculty and the community.

Scaling Off-Grid Energy (SOGE) Grand Challenge for Development was a global partnership founded by USAID, Power Africa, the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the African Development Bank, and independent charity Shell Foundation. By optimizing the resources and expertise of its partners, SOGE accelerated the growth of a dynamic, commercial off-grid energy market to provide clean, modern, and affordable energy access to the millions of households and businesses beyond the grid in sub-Saharan Africa. SOGE has been succeeded by the Household Solar Funders Group (HSFG).

Learn More:

Review the Call for Proposals

Last updated: June 23, 2021

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