Conversation with Abimbola Osinuga of Barefoot Power: Solar Home Systems — Beyond Solar Lighting

This tweetchat was held on the 26th of May 2016

Barefoot Power is a business that assists people in developing countries to access affordable renewable energy. They focus on providing affordable lighting and phone charging products specifically for low income populations. Barefoot Power believes that energy access is one of the key building blocks of economic development. Their first area of focus is on the most basic need for clean and affordable lighting — they design, manufacture and distribute micro-solar lighting and phone charging products.

The company’s mission is to help low income families break their dependence on inefficient and harmful light sources. mission is to help low income families break their dependence on inefficient and harmful light sources.

Please tell us a bit about your role as Territory Account Manager for Barefoot Power, Nigeria

It is position that supports to develop market entry strategies in Nigeria. I identify and help to develop strategic relationships with partners and potential clients. In summary, I’m to achieve maximum sales profitability, growth and account penetration in Nigeria, effectively selling the Barefoot Power products through personal contacts and securing new business accounts.

How do you get the Barefoot Power products to your beneficiaries in Nigeria?

In Nigeria,our focus is on 3 distribution channels the MFI, SME and Retail Outlets. On MFI,we are currently working with Centre for Grassroots Economic Development (CGEE). CGEE is formally JDPC microfinance with over 75 branches in South West. Also, with the help of Lighting Africa we are closing up on Grooming MFB. On SME,we see all SMEs dealing in solar energy are our potential distributor. The idea is to have distributors in major cities…we are already in talks with a number of them. On retail outlets, we are creating community retailers to sell our products.

Which of Barefoot Power’s product(s) is competing against kerosene lighting in affordability and functionality?

The Barefoot Firefly mobile lamp. It provides light bright enough for night business and for study. The high quality of this product was recognized by an award in 2012 from Lighting Global. It provides lighting for up to 50 hours depending on the setting and also charges mobile phones. This product comes with a 24-month warranty at a price of NGN3,900 retail recommended price.

How have you seen people’s lives transformed as a result of using Barefoot Power (BFP) products?

BFP is on a mission to help eradicate energy poverty from developing counties. Traders and housewives are now using BFP Go250 received from CGEE on installment. Over 500 lives were touched in the last 2 months by CGEE in south west Nigeria.

What distribution challenges do many Barefoot Power wholesalers and retailers face?

Most wholesalers’ and retailers’ complaint has always been the cost stocking up our products. They tend to compare our products to the generic products in terms of price,mostly in Alaba market. Our inability to get products in to the country at the right time tends to affect stocking too.

What is the current public perception in Nigeria about solar products?

Gone are the days when farmers, traders, transporters and others at the base of the pyramid don’t know about it; with the help of Lighting Africa who has done a good work in creating awareness and promoting the use of solar. Also, with the adoption of MFI to our distribution channel at least 1 out of 10 market women now know the importance.

What policies are favorable in other countries that will boost sales of implemented in Nigeria?

SMEs involved in distribution of solar products should have access to funds for business growth. Government should make solar products free duty on importation to help reduce the retail price.

What kind of Nigerian is leading the use of solar products e.g income, location, urban or rural?

Low earners in rural and sub-urban area are the lead user of Solar lamps. South-West is the market.

Which is more important in the deployment of solar lighting devices: End-User Education or End-User Financing?

End-User financing is the key to selling solar products as we all know that price is a key factor affecting it.

What would improve the widespread use of solar in Nigeria?

Subsidize the retail price so as to increase the numbers of walk-in customers at retail shop. Sales promotion and market activation should be used to create awareness at strategic locations.

Learn more about Barefoot Power from their website and Twitter page.