Sikubora: Accessible, reliable solar energy for every Tanzanian community
Our goal is to bring sustainable, affordable energy to every region in Tanzania. Community benefit informs every action and decision.
Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)
Sikubora Ltd. was founded in 2013 by a dedicated group of individuals who recognized the need and impact high-quality and accessible solar electricity could have in Tanzania. According to the 2016 Energy Access Situation Report, it is estimated that only 33% of Tanzania’s population has access to electricity, with substantially less electrification in rural areas. Over the past five years, Sikubora’s team has helped meet this need by providing sustainable, affordable, reliable electricity to over 280 Tanzanian families and organizations.
Our success is measured through our customers’ experiences: through our flexible financing options, high-value product offerings, and continued dedication to customer satisfaction, our customers have enjoyed the benefits of in-home electricity that they were unable to access without our service. Sikubora bridges planet and prosperity by designing our business operations to fit within Tanzania's existing infrastructure. Most of our customers previously relied on kerosene for light, so the implementation of solar electricity improves the household's health, safety, and carbon footprint.
As we have worked to improve access to electricity in Tanzanian communities, we have recognized that this is best accomplished in conjunction with improved financial inclusion. We provide financing services for our products, allowing customers to pay for their systems over three years. Most Tanzanians have no financial accounts or history outside of mobile money, so metrics like formal credit scores are hardly applicable. To understand an individual's financial status and gauge their ability to make the installment payments, we developed our own credit application with questions regarding a household's monthly and seasonal incomes and expenses. By designing our system to recognize financial responsibility as it is displayed in the context of Tanzania, we have been able to provide our customers the opportunity for an otherwise inaccessible loan.
Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)
Our beneficiaries are Tanzanian households and facilities that aren't connected to the electric grid, generally in rural areas. Most of our customers are families with children, and over half are farmers. Our operations are targeted towards Tanzanian families with some form of monthly or seasonal income but not necessarily a formal financial history. In order to service customers without a formal bank account or credit score, we have developed our own credit application with locally-relevant criteria that recognizes our customers' displays of stability and responsibility. Additionally, we accept payments through mobile money for ultimate customer convenience, and payments can be structured to coincide with harvest or other seasonal incomes. In addition to household systems, we have installed larger, customized systems in clinics and schools. We currently only operate within the Arusha region, but we plan to expand into other regions as capital and technology allow.
How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)
Sikubora is set apart in the quality of our product, approach to accessibility, and method for creating low-risk financial opportunities. We source our components from reputable manufacturers who support their products with a warranty. The systems are installed and serviced by Sikubora's team of skilled technicians, who ensure that the customer will enjoy the full benefit of their solar system - energy at no monthly cost for upwards of 25 years!
In terms of accessibility, we have designed our customer financing process to recognize financial stability and responsibility as they are displayed in Tanzania. By inquiring about a person's various sources of informal and agricultural income, we gain a more fair understanding of their financial standing and can offer otherwise inaccessible loans to our customers. In the future, we plan to offer additional loans to our customers to cover school fees, productive capital, and more, using the solar home system as humane, low-risk collateral
Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)
Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.
Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)
Sikubora aims to empower Tanzanians with limited resources through a high-value investment in reliable, sustainable, affordable solar energy, creating a safe, stable home environment in which families can thrive and prosper.
Organization Filing Status
Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.
Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).
Prosperity in Tanzania has been hindered by limited national infrastructure. Utilities and public services such as electricity, running water, and paved roads are limited or nonexistent in many communities, leading people to rely on problematic or inconvenient alternatives. This lack of infrastructure makes it complicated and unattractive to conduct business, preventing new capital and opportunities from settling in Tanzania, and lessens the quality of life for families who must either take extra steps to secure basic necessities or face the consequences of living without them.
Planet is impacted by the emissions involved with household energy generation, as well as by the resulting climate change. Without grid electricity, many people rely on kerosene for light, which produces considerable carbon emissions and harms families' eyes and respiratory systems. Climate change has made Tanzania's dry and rainy seasons less regular and predictable, harming the local agricultural community.
Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)
Sikubora has ongoing partnerships with local and global schools, businesses, and communities. Every year, students from the local Arusha Technical College and the American Northeastern University complete internships with Sikubora, gaining valuable experience and contributing to Sikubora's various departments. From these interns, we recruit our full-time solar engineers.
In terms of other businesses, we have partnerships aimed to improve our products and customer experience. We have partnered with Vodacom to collect payments through their mobile money platform for the convenience of rural customers, and we are working with international startups to expand our product offering to include microgrids and solar pumps for agriculture. In relation to our local community, we meet each customer's village leader to ensure that our activities will be beneficial to all involved. We have also completed electrification projects for community-backed institutions, such as schools and clinics.
Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)
Sikubora is largely a 'by us, for us' Tanzanian social enterprise. Unlike many of our competitors, all of Sikubora's operations take place in Tanzania. We hire local talent wherever possible, and partner with Arusha Technical College to recruit interns and full-time employees from their engineering program. Local practices of shopping and communication are conducive to our sales operations, which rely on in-person marketing and mobile money payments to reach consumers.
Sikubora is based in Arusha, Tanzania, and we plan to expand to other regions in Tanzania.
How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)
Our immediate plan is to expand our operations to two additional regions of Tanzania within 12 months. Within this period, we will continue to perfect our business operations, including improvements in sourcing, product offerings, sales, and software.
After this 12 month project, we will reflect on the successes and lessons learned through this endeavor, and apply our new knowledge to our long-term plans for expansion and development.
Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)