(Photo credits: UN Foundation)
Over the past several years, the “off-grid” lighting sector in East Africa has grown substantially and promises to help many of the 135 million people who lack access to electricity in the region. Despite increasing innovation and emerging best practice, significant market challenges persist in holding back scale. These include: (i) an influx of low quality products entering the market; (ii) a lack of locally available financing at competitive rates; (iii) a lack of awareness about the benefits of solar in remote regions; and (iv) generally inadequate distribution and service networks. Among the various segments of the industry’s value chain, distributors bear the lion’s share of these challenges while being uniquely positioned to address them, if adequately supported
About the Workshop
In recognition of the importance of distributors to growing East Africa’s off-grid lighting sector, the UN Foundation convened a workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on June 12-13, 2017 for the purposes of:
- Building the awareness and capacity of distributors to more effectively serve and grow the “off-grid” lighting market; and
- Attracting new distributors to the off-grid lighting sectors, thereby helping to create a more robust distribution network.
- The workshop focused on the needs and challenges of distributors in Tanzania – acknowledging their leading role in East Africa’s “off-grid” market – while encouraging participation and learning from neighboring East African countries.
The workshop was held under the auspices of the UN Foundation’s Energy Access Practitioner Network.
The workshop featured two days of interactive learning opportunities and action-oriented discussions on a range of topics including:
- Financing (session leads: SNV, SunFunder)
- Policy (session leads: GOGLA, M-KOPA, Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Rural Energy Agency)
- What distributors need to know about taxes and regulation on small scale solar
- Business Development Support (session leads: FRAXEN Consult Ltd., Practical Action)
- Introduction to business management and higher level leadership training services
- Retail and Distribution (session leads: Azuri, Omnivoltaic Energy Solutions, Little Sun, Enlight, Greenlight Planet, Ecozoom, d.light, International Finance Corporation (IFC), Tanzania Bureau of Standards, Collaborative Labelling and Appliance Standards Program (CLASP), Solar Sister, Solarkiosk, BoPInc)
- Introduction to new products/technologies (e.g. agricultural value chain, EE appliances) and matchmaking with manufacturers and importers
- Learning about quality standards/verification
- Strategies for reducing costs thru aggregating distributor demand
- Marketing and customer awareness/education
- After Sales Services (session leads: BBOXX, ARTI Energy, ENSOL, GOGLA)
- Strategies for effective management of after-sales service and warranties
- End-of-life issues (e.g. disposal, Recycling)
The workshop was by invitation only and targeted existing and potential new distributors in the off-grid lighting sector.
The UN Foundation welcomed the support and collaboration of other organisations in the organisation and execution of this workshop. Organisations that have expressed interest in the workshop included:
- USAID/Power Africa: Beyond the Grid
- Lighting Africa
- Global Distributors Collective (Practical Action)
- BOP Innovation Center
- Energizing Development (EnDev)