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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.

Photo of Erin Burba

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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. www.sikubora.com

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

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.

Geographic Focus

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)

  • No

Attachments (1)

30 comments

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Spam
Photo of Tyler Goodwin
Team

Hi Erin Burba  — congrats on getting started! I've done some field research for solar products in Tanzania, so would love to share my impressions and hear more of your thoughts on the competitive landscape.

NB: I saw in a comment that you don’t call your financing services PAYG. Based on your user experience map, it seems like your payment plans are similar to other PAYG companies who distribute systems as a managed service and offer payments in micro installments — so I grouped you together for the purposes of my comment. But, let me know if I’m missing something significant about your financing scheme!

One of my concerns with PAYG solar based on my research is how financially impactful PAYG actually is to consumers relative to generic solar with much lower total cost. I haven't done a full analysis, but one of the things that struck me in Tanzania was how many of the lowest income people are sourcing and configuring their own generic systems (compared to a fully managed PAYG system), and getting value (performance for cost) they are happy with through analog channels (i.e. bought in local or regional markets).

With the up front prices of these generic systems at 25% - 30% of what people would spend on a PAYG system, and often relatively high access to the lump sum required to make this smaller outlay without restrictive interest (e.g. from harvest windfalls, remittances, informal savings, and smaller loans with lower total interest), it seems to me the PAYG business model runs the risk of over-engineering itself for micro-payments without a real consumer advantage.

Of course, generic solar has it’s own downsides (e.g. environmental impact of the shorter life-cycle of an unmanaged system is a big one) — but for me, this raises the question of whether the PAYG model as it’s being widely implemented for the 80 - 200W systems you describe (adding metering tech to quality components, building intense sales and distribution operations in rural areas, remotely monitoring and managing accounts, and financing costs over 2-3 years) is the most impactful model for improving access and deploying working capital in service of this goal?

I see value to exploring PAYG models and the market certainly doesn't need to be served by only one or the other — but I wonder if we might be able scale access to more low income consumers by thinking harder about ways to overcome the limitations of both of these “1st generation” solar access models in off-grid markets (i.e. bringing the system cost more in line with generics while avoiding the environmental impact of generics' shorter lifespan).

This seems particularly important in TZ, where rural electrification efforts are rapidly expanding on pace with government promises and solar will increasingly be used as a backup or alternative to grid electricity.

What do you think?

Spam
Photo of Tyler Goodwin
Team

Erin Burba thanks for clarifying! And great to hear we agree on some of the issues to address with next generation solar :-)

It sounds like we define PAYG a bit differently, and I think I understand the reason you make the distinction (i.e. customers are not paying as they consume or based on consumption, but rather financing a set amount known up front). I call these PAYG only because they employ micro-payments over a significant period of time, and owning the system seems to be fairly industry-standard at this point for home systems. Do you know any examples of players who are still using a long-term PAYG financing structure?

If you haven't already, I would definitely encourage you to challenge the assumption that this payment structure is 'good for customer's finances' only because of the long period of 'free' consumption after the initial 3 year purchase period. For example, is this assumption still true from a low-income customer's perspective if they can purchase 3 inferior systems over 25 years at equivalent total cost (with affordable cash outlays coming every ~ 8 years) -- rather than committing to an intense 3 year period of consistent expenditure for a superior system? Of course there's not a single 'right' answer -- financial health is situational and you don't have to serve all segments -- but this is the kind of rationale some customers are currently using in choosing generic systems.

I agree the rationale of maximizing the useful life without payments (22 years) is potentially a good one for some customers and for the environment -- but the total expense of these systems (partially fueled by the intensive distribution model required for them) still seems to be a limiting factor in reaching the lowest income customers (as evidenced by the prevalence of decisions to buy generics in markets where both options exist). From the customer's perspective, 25 years is a huge time horizon and greater optionality might be both financially and physically healthier for a large number of people.

For example, to paraphrase 3 of the broad concerns I heard as they would apply to your systems:

- Can I commit to 25 years of energy access when I'm worried about whether my next 3 years of harvests will be good enough to make payments?
- Why not purchase the system I can afford in cash from this harvest alone, and maybe by the time it stops working I can even afford a better one?
- Will my family even have the same energy needs in 15 - 25 years?

Regarding REA's rural electrification plans, my understanding is as follows (as of August 2017):

- REA plan is split into 4 phases running from 2012 - 2022, named as Turnkey I-IV.
- Plan is to electrify all 'Development Centers' (villages identified to have the highest commercial potential) and all villages within 10km of Development Centers.
- Plan excludes any settlements with less than 500 people (which are primarily located in the less populous Southwest).
- Of 12,268 total villages mapped, 11,000 of them are slated for electrification by REA (which includes some by contracting mini-grid projects in areas where grid extension isn't feasible).
- As of 2017, Turnkey II (2012-2015) was slightly behind schedule, and Turnkey III had been initiated (2016-2019).
- As of Turnkey III initiation, about 700 Development Centers and 2,700 villages were electrified (which the government claims was a 94% success rate and represents 25% electrification of the rural population).

The various reports of course have a variety of dubious numbers, but I remember the general consensus being that things were going about as good as could be expected, and good enough to continue being partially financed by the World Bank (USD 209m commitment in late 2016).

The main government resources on this are at http://www.rea.go.tz/ and https://www.rea-remp.org/, and I'm sure you can find a range of fun reads by searching related terms. I don't know how much impact it will have on consumer decision sets, but I definitely think it's worth tracking in areas you plan to operate!

Spam
Photo of Tyler Goodwin
Team

Erin Burba , great to hear your thoughts on your core customer segment and the way you serve them -- thanks for sharing and good luck with your expansion!

Spam
Photo of Isaac Jumba
Team

Hi Erin Burba  Great idea. I came across a few other companies doing almost what Sikubora is doing and I was wondering if there could be any interesting approaches that you could pick from any of them: http://www.dlight.com/ http://www.m-kopa.com/ http://offgrid-electric.com/#home http://www.azuri-technologies.com/ I also found this idea on the platform really looks interesting on peer-to-peer model: https://challenges.openideo.com//challenge/bridgebuilder2/ideas/me-solshare-ltd-bridging-planet-and-prosperity-through-rural-electrification-and-smart-grids and I wonder if this model could work in Tanzania

Spam
Photo of Erin Burba
Team

Hi Isaac, thanks for your comment! There are certainly a lot of solar companies operating in Tanzania and East Africa in general, I hope we will be able to partner and collaborate in the future. The peer-to-peer energy project is very interesting, I think there's a lot of potential for this model to work in Tanzania. We've been speaking with a company in Cambodia that's developing smart micro-grids of a similar structure. We see the potential for this model to work in Tanzanian bomas and small villages off the grid. Hopefully, we'll reach a point where we can test the product in the local market and see how it may fit into Tanzanian culture.

Spam
Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer
Team

HI Erin,

Its wonderful to hear about your project. Can we join in, maybe with our Solar Concentrator? We have not read what you use to generate electricity - and you have not described in practical terms what it is you do in Tanzania. You have described the outcome, not your activities.

We are in the early phases where we have created a workable prototype, which can concentrate solar power at an extremely low cost. We expect a cost per Watt of USD 0.15 for the 3D printed version, and we expect to go down to USD 0.03 per Watt for the manufactured version.

Our model is based on Cradle 2 Cradle, so the most challenging part of our business is to get more and more materials and processes 100% reversible or recyclable and to use materials which either do not degrade, or, which can be returned to factory for 100% recycling or reuse.We are inspired by your measurement by community. We will in our Nexus 7 project copy that, as we are committed to the same, but we have not found such a clear statement to be used for our own (and our community's) evaluation of impact.Ours is a consumer model, where we intend to give away the production of our system - based on the exact same as you write - namely local production - we have as goal that we will produce no single part of the system - we want all of it to be produced locally in each country, and thereby have business in each community to drive our progress.We have had a strong focus on scalability - understood in this way that if we are to get to a substantial size, we need that this can scale without anything waiting for us to move an inch.When you, since 2013, over 5 years, have managed to put up 280 units (if I understand your text right), then we would like to have a chat with you about if we could maybe assist you in making your project scalable?We are (on our @Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator contribution) focused on that everything we are doing shall be so simple that the local Wanjiku (I guess there are wanjiku's in Tanzania too :-), shall be able to setup the system, him or herself.

Anyway we are writing to you to offer our assistance to make your project massively scalable, we have quite some experience in this, as we are 2 running this project an Industrial Designer and an Enterprise Solutions Architect.

We are touched by your dedication, it is really wonderful to participate in this IDEO thing, seeing and meeting with so many others who have their heart in what they do, like ourselves.

Best wishes, and may we hear from you, if some of what we have to offer, could be of value for your project.

Sincerely
David Svarrer / Thomas Høyer
Rational Intuitive IVS (Denmark, Kenya)
Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator 

Spam
Photo of Erin Burba
Team

Hi David and Thomas, thanks so much for your comments! I agree, this IDEO challenge is a great platform, and it's wonderful to see so many people working to help their local and global communities.

On a practical level, we install PV solar electricity systems in the homes of off-grid Tanzanians. We offer DC-only systems ranging in size from 80 to 200 watts, and AC/DC systems ranging 100 to 200 watts. All of these systems include lights, a TV, and more. As we designed our products, we took care to balance our customers' limited budgets with the necessity for reliability and quality. Because the systems are customized for each household, installed professionally, and regularly maintained, we can expect the system to last upwards of 25 years (exclusive of the battery, which will have to be replaced every three years or so. This is because we use VRLA batteries, which are about as high of quality as we can offer that's still accessible to the customer). We've found that while most customers don't have enough money reserved to buy a solar home system up front, many are able to pay it off in installment payments over three years. Over three years, monthly payments can be as low as $25 USD.

I hadn't heard of Cradle 2 Cradle before - it sounds like a great program. Your model of giving away the production of the solar concentrator to local communities is a great approach to so many concerns about sustainability, resourcefulness, community empowerment, and more. I'll head over to your Nexus 7 project page to talk more.

We would definitely be interested in getting your input on scalability, as expanding to new regions in Tanzania is one of our primary goals for the coming years. We've been working on solidifying our internal software, financing procedures, and sales methods at our existing office, but there's plenty more work to be done before we're ready to move across Tanzania. Your experience in conducting business in East Africa would be especially valuable to us. You're more than welcome to contact me at burba.e@husky.neu.edu, I would be very happy to chat with you more about potential collaborations.

Thanks again for your comment, all the best! - Erin

Spam
Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer
Team

Dear Erin Burba -
Wow. We are very happy and excited that our answer can be used. I propose that we continue within this platform here, due to that almost 10 of the projects are about solar energy, and using this platform here (IDEO) can hopefully make all of us learn from each other, and thereby improve tremendously on each of our projects and create prospect collaborations where we otherwise would have been on our own.
I would propose that we actually join forces, across all of the IDEO-projects dealing with: Energy, Cooling, Water and Sanitation as they - largely - have the same target demography, and massive collaboration across our projects would see each of us having factors more penetration power as we can then utilize each others contacts. This should be done, in my humble opinion, with humbleness and carefulness, such that we establish collaboration in ways which will benefit our projects.
Yes, Erin, we are indeed ready for further talks, and surely no matter how the IDEO projects goes, you are warmly welcome to communicate with us.
You are particularly mentioning "internal software" - what does that cover? I have made software for 35+ years, so please feel free to elaborate on what you need to solidify. I am the solutions architect (also within software) on our Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator project, and I do not mind spending some hours or days assisting you if you have issues with your software.

Feel welcome. I propose that you maybe have those in charge of the software contacting me via this platform. You can count on that maybe half of the guys in this IDEO competition have software problems too - doing solar stuff is rocket science, literally, when it comes to the software side of it all. It does not mean that it is very complicated or impossible, but it means that certain particular parts of making this software takes many many years of experience, in order to get the overall structures right, the architecture right etc., and there I could maybe be instrumental for your project so you can get faster to your goals.

Feel warmly welcome.
David / Thomas
Rational Intuitive IVS
Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator 

Spam
Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer
Team

Dear Erin,

Sorry for writing many individual messages. I try to keep one message to cover 1 topic/subject.

Here, I want to just elaborate a little bit on the Cradle 2 Cradle concept. This is not something we have invented. It is a general description of products which are created in such a way so that they leave no trace when they end their life.

You could say, that a normal tree, or a bush, or a plant or a human being - is cradle 2 cradle products. Because over a foreseeable time, any biological living beings remainders at the end of its life cycle in terms of his own biological remains, do not cause any environmental concern.
However, as an example, seen in a foreseeable future perspective, a nuclear reactor produces several tonnes of highly radioactive pollutants, which, during their life cycle towards totally non-radioactive components (millions of years, sigh), are directly dangerous for almost all life forms on Earth. So, Nuclear power is indeed not in the slightest way Cradle 2 cradle.

Our Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator project is also not 100% cradle 2 cradle, due to that certain of the components we are using - in example - an Arduino UNO R3 microprocessor-board - need to be certified as Cradle 2 Cradle - such that we can verify that every component in our project has a creation, a use, a wear out, a destruction, which leaves the environment for all other organisms as untouched as simple possible.

Examples on the opposite is, that our system is designed right now, such that it is 100% recyclable in terms of the plastic components.

However, it is not enough that it technically can be recycled. It is also key that we implement, and make the entire business model such that it is such highly beneficial for the participants - the buyers - the owners - the users - of our Solar Concentrator so that they return components which are spoiled, broken, damaged, worn out to us for recycling, while we then give them replacement components at a discounted rate and thereby we create the entire business model, the customer journeys, the product journeys, the payment journeys of the business plan in such a way that the built in encouragement to maintain the Cradle 2 Cradle principle is much bigger than the laziness often hitting people if they are "supposed to" do something.

We have chosen to use a pretty large deposit, payable as part of buying the recyclable components, which ensures that if they buy components in a shop again, then they pay full price, but, if they return the spoiled parts, they get for instance a 20% or more discount.

On our side, as producers (that is - those whom we outsource this to), they have a tremendous benefit, as THEY on THEIR side can crunch the material they receive, and reuse it. Due to that we use the very same materials, all the way through, it means that all plastics being used are compatible with other plastics. So no matter which of the components coming back to the factory, it can be crunched and reused, at a huge benefit for the manufacturer - he will save some 50% on the returned material, and thereby he too has an enormous encouragement to reuse the materials coming return.

We are not yet ready in our Nexus 7 project, to use the recycled plastics found in the environment, but we expect that towards 2019 and 2020, we have reached a level such that we can use the vast major parts of polluting plastics, and - some of the reasons we are applying for many of these competitions is that we intend to work with those plastic recycling companies such that we at the same time can help the manufacturers in each country reusing / recycling the already existing plastic waste and produce solar concentrator components from there. In our particular case, there are HDPE plastics of 2 kinds, and CP-PET plastics and ABS plastics which can all of them be used in various contexts to build our solar concentrator.

Now, in your case, maybe only a little part of what we do can be useful for your project, however, write if in doubt, then we can see how we can mutually be of benefit for each others projects.

Thanks for your kind words by the way. Good day.
Sincerely
David / Thomas
Rational Intuitive IVS
Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator 

Spam
Photo of Charles Betterton, MSCED
Team

Greetings Erin, Thank you for connecting on LinkedIn. I am very impressed with your project (and your responses to the comments)! I would like to ask a couple of questions for clarification if you don't mind. Could you please share your role in the project and the organization behind that? From a couple of the comments, I was wondering if there are available "mutual funding" resources for projects like yours that could help address the financing needs across Africa (or perhaps the world.) Do you happen to know of any such resource? If there isn't that level of "financial capacity-building" available, establishing such a collaborative project could be presented in other fundraising platforms and or perhaps a Benefit Corporation could be established in 1 of the US States that provide for that "cause-oriented" business model with a purpose of investing in helping provide funding for projects such as Sikubora.

As a community economic development (CED) specialist I deeply appreciate the unprecedented resources now available in the US to collaborate, innovate, create jobs and foster sustainability through the Benefit Corporation model and equity crowdfunding provisions of the US JOBS Act. One of our related projects is to help share the advantages of those resources, especially in combination with CED principles and practices of self-help, empowerment and capacity-building. If you might be interested, some advance information is available at https://www.whatgoodwouldyoudowithamilliondollars.com and our larger Expanding the Circle of Success Education and Empowerment strategy is introduced at https://www.100millionsolutions.com/our-strategy

Spam
Photo of Erin Burba
Team

Hi Charles, happy to connect!
I'm a university student completing a seven-month co-op with Sikubora. I'm studying computer science and engineering and mainly working on Sikubora's internal software, but I've also taken on the task of applying to various funding/financing/support programs like the BridgeBuilder Challenge. Some of these programs are functionally similar to mutual funding resources, some through a bank and some through organizations who work on connecting funds to companies or projects relating to renewable energy, financial inclusion, and such. I think you have a great idea started on establishing a project to connect US-based capital with international social enterprises - while some people have demonstrated an interest in contributing to Sikubora, challenges presented by distance and Tanzania's often unpredictable business environment have created a substantial hurdle. An organization that works to vet companies and learns the specifics of investments in challenging environments could be a great bridge.

I'll definitely look into the resources you've shared - while I'm mainly a tech student I've become very interested in the business aspects of social enterprises and would be interested in working on related projects in the future. Thanks so much for your comment, keep in touch!

Spam
Photo of Charles Betterton, MSCED
Team

Thank you for sharing your information Erin. Based on your interest, expertise and research, perhaps you could contribute a chapter to our forthcoming publication to help introduce the resources now available for the first time in the US through the Benefit Corporation model and equity crowdfunding provisions of the US JOBS Act! I learned about the work of B Lab as a member of Social Venture Network several years ago and highly recommend The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good by Ryan Honeyman. As a Community Economic Development specialist I also deeply resonate with and appreciate two books by Marc J. Lane (http://bit.ly/MarcJLane). They are Social Enterprise: Empowering Mission-Driven Entrepreneurs and The MISSION-DRIVEN VENTURE: Business Solutions to the World's Most Vexing Social Problems and I believe you will find both of them valuable in your continuing journeys. Thanks again! If you might be interested in future communication and possible collaboration, my email is ceo@universityforsuccessfulliving.org

Spam
Photo of Erin Burba
Team

This sounds great, I’ll definitely look into these texts and reach out soon to discuss further collaborations. Thanks so much!

Spam
Photo of David / Thomas Svarrer / Høyer
Team

Dear Charles,

Such CED programs, are these available for those who would like to take up local production of such sustainable energy systems?

I envisage a rotational fund, where prospects borrow from and pay a little more back than they borrow, and then this fund can thereby be "reused" to finance more and more sustainable energy programs?

Our principle in the Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator project is to outsource the physical production totally, without a cent in pay to us, simply to ensure that it is totally locally owned by the communities who decide to get solar energy.

We would be happy to hear more from you if you have the chance.

Sincerely
David Svarrer / Thomas Høyer
Rational Intuitive IVS
Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator 

Spam
Photo of Charles Betterton, MSCED
Team

Greetings David and Thomas, I love your vision and especially your acceleration strategy of "Business wise, we give away 98% of the production simply to make this happen!" I would be interested in exploring IF and HOW I might be able to assist you with your project. You MIGHT find some value in the contents we are planning to include in a forthcoming book (directly applicable to the United States) titled "What GOOD Would You Do With A Million Dollars A Year?" The subtitle is Discover How Your Company or Nonprofit Organization and Your Community Can Prosper As You Harness the Power of Equity Crowdfunding, the Benefit Corporation and Community Economic Development Strategies. (Advance details are at www.whatgoodwouldyoudo.com IF the servers aren't acting up . . .)

Community Economic Development (CED) activities are applicable and prevalent worldwide, perhaps by connecting you with experts in how you might best set up the "strategic marketecture" which to me in the United States would definitely include setting up a combination of "cause-oriented" benefit corporations and affiliated nonprofit organizations. While the web page I wanted to share with you that presents a brief introduction to CED is not presently functioning, I will post excerpts below and if you would like to follow up, my email address for this would be ceo@cedbcorp.com. (Actually as there are limits for the length of comments, I will have to share the introduction in 2 parts.)

INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Part 1

Introducing Community Economic Development “Community development is the process by which the efforts of the people themselves are united with those of governmental authorities to improve the economic, social and cultural conditions of communities, to integrate these communities into the life of the nation, and to enable them to contribute fully to national progress. This complex of processes is, therefore, made up of two essential elements: the participation by the people themselves in efforts to improve their level of living, with as much reliance as possible on their own initiative; and the provision of technical and other services in ways which encourage initiative, self-help and mutual help and make these more effective." -- United Nations' definition.

The primary goal of community development is to help people improve their economic and social conditions. Community economic development, a subset of community development, is a people-initiated strategy that seeks to develop the economy of a community, region or country for the benefit of its residents. Community economic development strategies seek to develop efficient, productive and profitable ventures and programs within the context of a community’s social, cultural and political values. Community Economic Development (CED) is said to consist of three main principles: Self-Help; Empowerment and Capacity Building. CED strategies include issues such as: * local ownership of economic resources; * citizen participation; and * building the capacity of people to participate in and manage the development process.

SEE PART 2 FOR DEFINITIONS OF SELF-HELP, EMPOWERMENT AND CAPACITY-BUILDING

Spam
Photo of Charles Betterton, MSCED
Team

INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNITY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Part 2

SELF-HELP DEFINED: The idea of self-help is one of several distinguishing features of community development theory, practice, and ideology. Self-help is based on the premise that people can, will, and should collaborate to solve community problems. In addition to the practical problem-solving utility of this perspective, self-help builds a stronger sense of community and a foundation for future collaboration. Self-help is emphasized not only as a goal to be achieved in and of itself, but also as a strategy for the accomplishment of broader development objectives. Helping communities achieve a capacity for self-help is fundamental to both the theory and practice of community development. Self-help embodies two interrelated features: (1) it is expected to produce improvements of people's living conditions, facilities, and/or services); and (2) it emphasizes that the process by which these improvements are achieved is essential to development of the community. The "developed community" is both improved and empowered as a result. Thus a self-help approach not only emphasizes what a community achieves, but more importantly, how it achieves it. Another way of stating this is to distinguish between development in the community (the improvements) and development of the community (how these improvements are achieved). -- Excerpts from Community Development Perspectives edited by James A. Christenson and Jerry W. Robinson, Jr. Iowa State University Press/Ames 1989.

EMPOWERMENT DEFINED: “Empowerment is another concept often discussed but not always practiced. In broad terms, empowerment is enhancing the possibilities for people to influence those persons and organizations that affect their lives. Empowerment involves recognizing and nurturing the unique strengths and competencies of people that derive from the wisdom of their everyday experiences. Empowerment also entails strengthening social networks and community institutions by promoting a diversity for approaches to deal with social life." "An important route to empowerment is building local capacity. When a community and its people are empowered, they have the capacity to articulate their needs; to identify actions to solve these needs; and, to mobilize and organize resources in pursuit of community defined goals. When the people of a community come together to visualize a common future and then work together to achieve it, there develops a recognition that everyone --regardless of education, job, race, background or whatever -- has something important to contribute to that process. Indeed, the greater the diversity of the participants, the richer the vision and the more effective its accomplishments." -- Excerpts from a speech given by Lorraine Garkovich before the Twentieth Annual Conference of the Community Development Society, July 1989.

LOCAL CAPACITY BUILDING: The rationale for local capacity building bears repeating here: local governments alone simply do not have the human resources to cope effectively with the changing social, political, and economic environments which they now confront. If the base of human resources that local governments can draw upon is not expanded, then communities and people will never achieve the quality of life they want and deserve. The three general types of strategies for local capacity building are: (1) expanding the base of citizen involvement; (2) enhancing the leadership pool; and (3) enlarging the information base of local communities. While each is important, it is together that they establish a solid foundation for citizen participation in community development. These strategies have multiple purposes and outcomes. They contribute to capacity building by nurturing and strengthening local organizations, by generating citizen interest to participate in community decision making and actions, and by increasing the vehicles for citizen involvement." -- Excerpts from Community Development Perspectives edited by James A. Christenson & Jerry W. Robinson, Jr. Iowa State University Press/Ames 1989

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Dear Charles Betterton, MSCED - thanks for your swift reply. Let us switch then to our project. I will continue my response from the Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator project.

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Hi Erin - Really interesting and sounds like an innovative solution to a really complex issue. We did some small-scale solar light distribution in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and one thing we learned was that lack of lighting at nighttime was increasing women's vulnerability to domestic abuse/violence. It helped us establish some important connections with organizations combating abuse and sexual violence. I'm wondering what if any gender analyses or audits you've performed in designing this project, and how you're planning to ensure gender equity among the customers (thinking about female-headed households or other vulnerable women, etc).Best,
Leah

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Hi Leah, this is a great question and important consideration. We haven't performed any analyses regarding gender and haven't focused much of our efforts so far on the gendered aspects of our service. The most I can say in that regard is that we designed our credit application to recognize informal employment and enterprises common to both men and women, valuing their efforts and responsibility regardless of the actual job or who is doing it. This has allowed us to recognize more women who are self-employed and practicing cottage industries in their homes. We've also found that most of our customers are families with children, and if we're able to move forward in an ongoing collaboration, we'll be able to install a microgrid within a boma (housing compound with one house for the husband and one house for each of his wives and their children), which would bring energy into each of the wives' homes.

If you have any ideas as to how we could better ensure gender equity and serve vulnerable populations, you're more than welcome to reach out. I'd be very appreciative to have your input on how we can improve our business - thanks again for your comment!

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Dear Leah,

We men are also losing out terribly when men beat up women. It lowers the threshold of trust from woman to man.

Well, it is indeed key that we remove the physical (Night / Darkness) contributions to such gender-based violence.

What is your take in general on what one can do to reduce gender based violence?

I live large parts of the year in Kenya, Africa, and I hear again and again, about how men mistreat women. IN fact, our very female neighbours are on a continuous note reporting how their husbands mistreat them. The violence they appear could be called "Trust-violence", in that their husbands go out Friday and Saturday nights and do not come back until early mornings, and it is obvious that they have had intimacy in the night. This goes on weekend after weekend, month after month, year on year. The women are economically trapped, as they gave up their day-to-day works and are now unable to go out and make a living and thereby take care of themselves...

So, in your experience, what can we do such that gender-based violence does not depend on the amount of light in the night time?

Sincerely
David Svarrer / Thomas Høyer
Rational Intuitive IVS (Denmark, Kenya)
Nexus 7 Solar Concentrator 

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Hi Erin,
Maybe Matt at BioLite could help you with some solar solutions! mgoldberg@bioliteenergy.com
Send him a note!

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Sounds great, thanks so much for the contact!

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Hi Erin,
Sounds like you are making a big impact on families in Tanzania. I am wondering approximately how many families are in an average community and what percentage now have your solar electricity?

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Thanks Alexandra! It's hard to say what the size of an average community is, but in general, the communities we serve are too small or remote to be considered for grid electrification - less than 17% of rural Tanzanians have access to electricity. It's estimated that our larger competitors have only addressed 30% of the population without electricity (20% of the total population), leaving about 40% of Tanzania's population of 55 million without any electricity.

To date, we have over 280 customers across the Arusha region, which has a higher penetration of both grid and solar electricity than the national average. We're planning to expand to more power-poor regions in Tanzania as capital allows.

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Hello Erin Burba and Sikubora team,
I was reading your Sikubora: Accessible, reliable solar energy for every Tanzanian community idea and I must say it's a great contribution! I find it very interesting to read how your solar offerings are backed up with financial services provision. Can you explain me how you implement this aspect of your project?
At United for Hope we also have projects that involve Solar Energy and are always excited to learn from fellow social entrepreneurs' experience. Check out our idea if you want!
All best from our team to yours!

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Thanks so much for your positive comments - I'm interested to learn about your projects too!

Traditional financing isn't very practical in Tanzania - few people have the formal financial history and income required by most credit providers. Using local knowledge and experience, we developed a set of criteria that recognizes financial stability and responsibility in the context of Tanzania. We ask the customer about their standard incomes and expenses, including formal employment, informal self-employment, farming, livestock, assets, and school fees. For verification, we ask the customer's village leader to vouch for their financial claims and character, and we require the customer to sign a contract ensuring that all information they have provided is true. This process has been generally successful in accurately and fairly assessing financial standings, as most of our customers have been able to adhere to the terms of the agreement and complete the monthly payments.

Since most of our customers are in rural areas, we collect installment payments through mobile money to further our accessibility and convenience. We also have staff dedicated to assisting customers in completing payments and helping them remember their due dates.

While the financing aspect is the most crucial service for our customers, we have found that it imposes a limit on our working capital and ability to service customers. With outside funding and guidance (hopefully through the BridgeBuilder Challenge!) we plan to source internationally in bulk to lower our cost of materials and reach customers in other regions in Tanzania.

Let me know if there's anything else I can clarify. All the best!

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Hey Erin,
Have you checked the other ideas involving solar energy? Maybe you can compliment each other ;) https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/bridgebuilder2/ideas/bringing-solar-powered-water-purification-systems-to-lake-turkana-kenya

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This looks like a great project, thanks for bringing it to my attention! It's encouraging to see so many ideas involving solar or working in East Africa, definitely lots of room for collaboration :)

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This is an interesting concept and I have also previously offered tailored support for a Solar Energy start-up in Uganda. One challenge though is with ensuring that the community/clients make prompt payment for the system procured. Are you considering installing the PayGo system in the equipment - perhaps within the pilot process

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Hi Daniel, thanks for your comment!

With each customer, we produce a contract which both parties understand and agree to. The contract details the terms of payment: if a customer is 10 days late on a payment, we will turn their system off; if a customer is 60 days late on a payment, we will repossess the system.

However, we have multiple practices in place to ensure that shutoffs and repossessions happen as infrequently as possible. We evaluate the customer's financial status before selling them a system to ensure that they will be able to afford monthly payments on their desired system. When a customer is a couple days behind on a payment, our customer relations manager calls them to check in, remind them about the payment, and see if they're in a situation that necessitates a few days lenience. For extra insurance, we meet each customer's balozi (neighborhood leader) to verify their responsibility and ability to pay.

We don't plan on installing PAYG systems at the moment - as an alternative we are working with Cambodia-based startup Okra on incorporating their microgrid technology in our systems. This would allow a customer who purchases a solar home system to sell excess energy to their neighbors. We see this arrangement as more beneficial than a PAYG system, as a customer will enjoy the benefits of owning their system while generating extra revenue from their neighbors, who will be able to access a PAYG-similar service.

Let me know if there's anything else I can clarify!