Developing franchised community enterprises & associated solar ventures in Rwanda
The three winners of last year’s Nudge Global Leadership Challenge, Stephanie Dexter (Heineken, USA), Janis Tong (Good Lab, Hong Kong) and Merve Şensoy (Ferrero, Turkey) are preparing their trip to Rwanda early summer. Together with WakaWaka they will immerse themselves in the off-grid energy market and develop a strategy linking the WakaWaka Virtual Grid model with other connected industry sectors. These three Agents of Light write a blog about their expectations.
This first blog is written by Janis Tong
From Amsterdam to Kigali: a trip with mission
Can’t believe it’s over seven months since the 30 future leaders of sustainability departed from the first Nudge Global Leadership Challenge at Amsterdam last year, and Stephanie, Merve and I will soon reunite to explore solar energy in Kigali, capital of Rwanda!
Guided by WakaWaka and Nudge team members, as “Agents of Light” we will spend 10 days in Rwanda to gain knowledge and understanding about energy poverty and how this affects the socio-economic development of off-grid households, raise awareness about the topic in the on-grid world, and come up with feasible solutions with WakaWaka in the fight against energy poverty – excited!
WakaWaka in Rwanda: how do the pre-paid solar light and chargers work?
Over 90% of people in Rwanda do not have access to the electricity grid. This leads to more dangerous, expensive and polluting options being commonly used at night, such as candles and kerosene lights. Hence WakaWaka, as solar powered electricity and light solutions which are safe, affordable and clean to use, are desperately needed in the country.
Over the past months, we were introduced to WakaWaka’s pay-as-you-go Virtual Grid (VG) model that is innovatively developed to provide high quality light and power at an affordable entry price point. With a simple payment system using scratch cards, clients can enjoy affordable and sustainable energy access from their WakaWakas after credits are added to their mobile phones. Currently, the VG model is tested at 3 pilot sites (Gicumbi, Rulindo and Kamonyi) respectively – I look forward to visiting the pilot sites in person soon, to understand how the pre-paid solar light and chargers work!
New opportunities for the WakaWaka Virtual Grid model
With our trip to Rwanda, we want to reach certain goals. We want to gain knowledge about energy poverty and we want to understand just how the VG model works. We will also come up with action plans to eventually develop strategies for adjacent sectors or industries that could benefit from providing off-grid households with reliable light and power, fueled with the data we collected on energy usage.
While high quality light and power are key in improving the quality of life of many Rwandan families, the rural communities can only afford other necessities such as basic healthcare and education once they become active participants in the economy. Can we seek to rethink the WakaWaka Virtual Grid as not only a model to provide light and power for off-grid households, but also as a mean to promote entrepreneurial initiatives and develop adjacent enterprises at the community level and thus have a positive impact on the local economy and households at the base of the pyramid?
Having taken into account the poor accessibility of the off-grid areas and the capacity differences of the rural community, I am eager to do more research with the stakeholders upon arrival, and check out the feasibility to develop franchised community enterprises & associated solar ventures in Rwanda in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for my updates!