Off-grid Solar in Rural Zambia
What I learned during my trip, meeting solar companies, sales agents and customers. I’m leaving with a heavy heart, I really hope to come back!
This trip opened my eyes to a lot of things which I’ve taken for granted. For example, you would think that if a power-line is 10 meters away from your house, you will be able to get electricity?
Wrong. We visited an area called Garden House close to the centre of Lusaka. It was built without proper zoning laws, and was therefore left out of getting electricity directly (despite being 5 meters from power lines). It is currently deemed lawful, although there is no set date for when electricity will arrive.
Then there’s also the expense of grid electricity so most people cannot afford it. Even if you can afford it, you often want solar to save some money and to handle load shedding days.
It’s also eye-opening to see what solar means to people down here and hearing which products they would like next. One lady wanted a TV at home so her kids stop running away from home so much to watch TV in other houses! A store owner was asking about solar fridges, so she could compete with other businesses by selling cold drinks. A farmer informed us that they would like the pumps for watering their crops to be powered by solar instead of diesel.
I have been amazed at the hospitality and the warmth from the people I met. It is easy to look at a map and imagine people’s problems and solutions, but coming here has opened my eyes. Meeting a grandmother who uses solar energy to keep her phone charged, so she can call her children when she needs help. It is, for me, a situation someone in any country can relate to.
Mark Twain once said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime”
From meeting Managers in solar companies, explaining their distribution system. As well as the Entrepreneurs working as sales agents, walking many kilometres per day to sell solar systems. To the Customers, hearing both complaints and praise. It all makes me proud to say I am part of it.
I’ve been trying to show you what I have seen, to give you a better understanding of the impact you’re having on people’s lives. I hope I’ve managed that in some small way and that you, as an investor, are proud to be part of it as well.