Northern Uganda models many of the human and economic development challenges that face much of sub-Saharan Africa today. The core problem is that post-war areas such as the Acholi sub region in Northern Uganda continue to struggle with poor basic service infrastructure following decades of population displacement, coupled with inconsistent and unreliable grid access to sustainable sources of energy that together impede the economics for many rural households.
From 1996 to 2006, Northern Uganda was entrenched in a brutal war between civilian communities and Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels. The violence erupting from this conflict left over two million displaced from their homes and tens of thousands of people killed. Now in a phase of rehabilitation, Northern Uganda grapples with building back a dignified basic services infrastructure around schools and clinics that can meet the needs of its burgeoning population, all the more stressed now by refugee movement from neighboring South Sudan.
At the heart of the infrastructure issues, entire communities often go without reliable and affordable access to electricity, which could otherwise assist social services to function properly and support economic development. About 15% of the Ugandan population currently has access to electricity http://www.ivl.se/download/18.4b1c947d15125e72dda353e/1452527987219/C144.pdf In the best case scenario, this number is expected to surge to 25.5 percent by 2022 according to the current strategic plan, leaving at least 74.5 percent of the country (about 29 million people) without access to grid electricity by 2022. The energy poverty in Uganda is a function of the high cost for utility providers to expand the grid to rural areas without sufficient returns, the subsequent high cost of energy for consumers, and unreliable services for those who are connected to the national electricity grid.
Disconnected communities experience substantially larger levels of unemployment in a region that already faces one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world, at 62 percent https://www.aku.edu/eai/Documents/the-uganda-youth-survey-report-august-2016.pdfOverall. Rural micro-enterprises are hindered by dark periods when electricity is not available, coupled with often inefficient strategies to track costs or attract more customers. Also, while aware of the role that information plays as a transformative tool to communities throughout the world, in Uganda the percentage of Internet users is as low as 19.2 percent compared to the world average of 44 percent http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER.P2. This is due largely to low literacy level in Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), the high cost of ICT devices, and low connectivity rates in rural areas.
In response to these issues, the Social Economic Ecosystem Project (SEES) will establish a robust community-driven energy/connectivity/capacity strengthening ecosystem to address the challenge of electrification and entrepreneurship in support of the human and economic development of post-conflict Northern Uganda. This model demonstrates how provision of a consistent and reliable renewable energy source can in turn facilitate basic service delivery and job creation in rural post-conflict communities.
The CE3 intervention, on which this proposal is based, follows this pattern. The fundamental observed need and opportunity: business opportunities grew up around off-grid ICT installations, leveraging the small amount of surplus clean energy powering the ICT in these sites. CE3 seeks to magnify the elements of this self-assembling response to the opportunities which ICT makes possible. The community demand for energy is met by providing capitalization for community ownership of the means of energy production at affordable rates. Business development, necessary to develop the economically productive responses to available energy needed for sustainability and expansion of energy production, is encouraged through formation of infrastructure of local community support for business, including basic training in a common language of business development (Entrepreneurial Essentials training). ICT is leveraged to open channels to best practices and partnership support for energy production, business cultivation, as well as technical and economic training. This is the CE3 ecosystem, a community-owned but globally-supported response to a locally perceived need. BOSCO continues to function as a connecting partner in this effort, providing scaffolding for essential practices (such as savings accounts for energy system sustainability jointly managed by local communities and regional maintenance support and training of local utility managers.)
Recent participatory assessments with two communities in Gulu (Paimol and Coo-Pe) revealed electricity needs for rural health centers, schools and business activities. Electricity supply will power an ICT&D (Information, Communication, Technology and Development) Center, one local health facility, one primary school, the business community and provide individual solutions to 200 people for light and charging stations through household-level batteries provided by Sirona Care Solutions. This will leverage BOSCO-Uganda’s already strong knowledge and skills in provision of Energy solutions, Intranet and Internet through its ICT & D, and training in business through an Entrepreneurship Essentials course already-tested in partnership with the Accenture Development Partners Foundation. In total the project will reach over 2,900 direct beneficiaries across all its interventions and 23,000 indirect beneficiaries. At least 407 unique individuals will witness the impact of the full ecosystem as they access services from more than one of the areas supported through the energy or connectivity component of this project.
The SEES framework (see attached), reflects a minimum of four components to the program. These components (i.e. ICT & D Center, health center, schools, solar charging stations, and the business community) will be supplied with solar energy through the solar microgrid station afforded through this project. The community management committee in Paimol has already established a prepaid system to finance the sustainability of the project, and has been contributing to it for the past three years. They also have a community collective for energy investments which will supplement shortfalls should they arise. Accompanying a successful implementation over two years and rise in the energy needs, the sustainability fund will help support additional scale up at each site.
Active community participation from the needs assessment to implementation and monitoring will be integrated throughout to ensure both ownership by the communities and increased sustainability of the proposed interventions. The various components will be answerable to a central energy utility management committee chosen by the community.