Week With Brave - part 2! 2nd of three new SolarAid vids where Brave gives all the reasons why solar lights are better than kerosene lamps. Just in case you still need persuading!
Just got an exciting email from SolarAid to say it’s the start of ‘a week with Brave’ from the Malawi team. This is the first of three videos (next two to follow) where Brave uses his own experience to talk about what life in rural Malawi without electricity is really like, and why he’s committed to helping people across Africa move from kerosene lamps to solar with SunnyMoney.
My last weekend in Malawi, taking a moment on the Mulanje massif to reflect on a fantastic few months with the Malawi SolarAid team. And doing a bit of advertising with my SunnyMoney t-shirt!
So sadly I’ve finished in Malawi for now and have had to say goodbye to the SolarAid team! Thanks so much to them all for making me feel really welcome, it’s been an excellent 4 months that has flown by. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to visit again soon.
In the meantime, I wish the team all the best - with the amount of hard work and energy they put in, SunnyMoney Malawi has a very bright future! (excuse the pun..!)
In my last week in Malawi I went to visit customers at Citrefine Plantations on the Viphya plateau south of Mzuzu. I was keen to see them as they’d been having a few problems with the products they bought. It seems that while some customers are very happy - Lucia above seemed delighted with her PP Senior - others were excited to have a replacement for candles at last, but after a while experienced various technical difficulties with the solar products that led to disappointment.
There were some very useful lessons learnt from the trip, including ideas to reduce similar problems in future:
- more comprehensive training in how to use and assemble the products
- provision of instructions in the local language
- having a nearby SunnyMoney entrepreneur/dealer to be on hand to help in case of problems and trained in repairs
These are now being incorporated into the SunnyMoney after-sales service strategy to further improve customer care. They are excellent products being sold so it’s really important that customers don’t lose confidence.
When we were surveying traders in Karonga, one of them wasn’t selling solar products and hadn’t previously - yet she was proudly displaying this Tough Stuff poster!
Mrs Mtambo has a large solar system for lighting her shop and house. Her husband picked up the ToughStuff poster in Karonga boma and she said people see it, along with the solar panel on the roof, and are really interested - it even attracts people to the shop specifically. She said they’d be very likely to stock solar lights if given the opportunity. Hopefully SunnyMoney will be able to provide that opportunity as they build up the distribution infrastructure.
After my previous post about Likoma, this article in The Nation on Friday (ironically Friday 13th..) caught my eye. With the Ilala out of service until September it means that Likoma and Chizumulu islands are cut off from essential deliveries - not only ESCOM’s diesel and the stock of solar systems brought in by SunnyMoney dealers, but even essential food and medical supplies. It’s a big concern and I really hope they find a solution.
New product alert - The Sun King Pro has arrived! Beautifully demonstrated by Fishani above. 100 of them have arrived from the Zambia office where they’ve been selling well, so time to give them a try in Malawi. Given the devaluation here it’s great that the range of one-bulb lanterns is expanding for those that can’t afford the bigger systems.
Not sure of the exact price yet, it’ll be more than the Barefoot Firefly but it’s bigger (2.5W panel, 100 lumens on brightest setting) and you can charge your phone from the battery in the lamp, so charging’s possible at night-time. It’s also got a handy display showing the remaining hours of light left in the battery - see bottom right photo. 38 hours on the low setting seems pretty good!
Having posted about a SunnyMoney seller, here’s some more info about some new SunnyMoney customers.
Francisco and Wes Phiri came to the office on Thursday from their house in Mbalama village, Mzimba, to buy a 2-bulb Barefoot Powapack Junior. On finding out they’d had a 3 hour bus ride on dirt roads to get here Frank called the sales team back from lunch especially.
I asked Mr Phiri how they knew to come here. He said they’ve got a relative at one of the tea estates who bought a Firefly from a SunnyMoney entrepreneur and he spread the news. They didn’t know the telephone number so just took a map and found their way to the office. Mr Phiri’s a tobacco farmer so had the cash as he’s recently sold some crops. Previously they used a paraffin lamp, but he noted that paraffin’s scarce now so they also use battery-powered torches. He was excited to say he’ll be the first in the village with a solar system and he’s already planning to come back next month to buy another one for his brother.
A note on some more great reports published last month…
REN21’s Renewables 2012 Global Status Report estimates the share of renewables in Malawi as 2.8% of total electricity production in 2010, but notes the government’s target of 7% of primary energy by 2020. It also reminds us that less than 9% of the total population and only 1% of the rural population have access to electricity, and that more than 93% of Malawi’s population depends on firewood for heating and cooking. However, it highlights efforts in place to address this, such as the Promotion of Alternative Energy Sources Project (PAESP) which started in 2011 and aims to substitute wood and charcoal with biomass briquettes and biogas, and an electrification target for Malawi of 30% by 2020.
Bloomberg NEF / UNEP’s Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2012 provides an update on investment levels in global renewable energy markets. A particularly interesting point:
“The IEA has estimated that achieving universal energy access by 2030 will require investment of $48 billion dollars annually, up from $9 billion today. Although this would require a significant scaling up of both public and private sector engagement in the energy sectors of the least developed countries, the total capital outlay is only 19% of the investment mobilised globally for the renewables sector in 2011, or 41% of that in the developing world. Considering the social, environmental and economic benefits of bringing modern energy services to the 1.3 billion people today that lack electricity to light their homes and businesses, and the 2.7 billion that do not have clean cooking facilities, the required overall investment seems somewhat modest and achievable based on the recent capital mobilisation experience of the renewables sector globally.”
Also focussing on investement, the IIED released a report on Sustainable Energy for All and the private sector. It looks at the role of the UN SE4All initiative in promoting investment in energy access markets, suggesting that:
“SE4ALL needs to address the lack of finance for enterprises and end
users, especially in untested markets; infrastructure and support services for new businesses; local skills, capacity and information about workable models; and favourable policy frameworks.
On a related point, Simon Collings from GVEP International highlights on the GVEP blog some further business models that the IFC report on private sector opportunities missed. He finishes with a pertinent reminder:
“While the potential is there, understanding how best to provide aid dollars or invest equity remains a highly complex exercise.”