Energy ‘Poverty’ For Sale!

Where 1 + 1 = 11: the Potential for Exponential Growth from Solar Mini-Grids in Nigeria

Energy Challenges for the Poor in Nigeria is an Investor’s Opportunity

Increasingly, the role of entrepreneurship and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is at the heart of sustainable development across the world. In Sub-Saharan Africa, bedeviled largely by poor infrastructural development, terrible road networks are making small-holder farmers loose more than 60 percent of their crops before accessing the market. Lack of extension services and refrigerators causes more than 70 percent of farm produce to rot before it gets to the market when buyers are not forth coming. In most cases, these disadvantaged groups eventually sell below their profit level in desperation. These marginalized populations often live in abject poverty unable to even-out in the face of enormous economic and social challenges.

Energy Crisis for Micro-Business Owners

Angela is a single mother with six children running a small beauty salon business in Abakaliki, South East Nigeria. Lack of electricity from the National Grid forced her take a loan from the micro finance bank to purchase a small power generator to keep her business going. She spend 60 percent ($50) of her profit on petrol fuel, generator servicing and repairs weekly, causing her fall short on her loan. In the last two months, the scarcity and hike in the price of petrol means her margins further shrink, as most of her customers can not afford to pay more for her service.

When there is no fuel or customers, it means her children will be out of school, no food for the family, and she may loose her business to the micro-credit institution if she misses her repayment schedule. This is the story of micro-entrepreneurship across the Sub-Saharan Africa.

Nigeria’s ‘Energy Poverty’

Despite being oil rich, Nigeria is energy poor. Per capita electricity consumption is half that of nearby Ghana and even this limited supply is shockingly unreliable. When the power shuts down — which it does all the time — people sit in the dark or, if they are lucky, fire up generators that cost the country $180 billion to fuel (add a chunk more for capital and maintenance costs).

Less than 20 percent of the entire population in Nigeria has access to electricity. Most people are poor, living with less than $2.5 per day. A subset of this population; about 50 percent are youths without any form of livelihood. An average of $60 is spent monthly on either kerosene or dangerous candles to provide light sources at night.

Most of the remote communities in Nigeria are without connection to the grid. Since 2010, 1-Watt Solar Club had partnered and invested in decentralizing a Solar Mini-Grid to remove the barrier to access clean, safe, and reliable electricity in select communities across Nigeria. 1-Watt Solar Club is expanding clean energy services to 1,000 households per community where small-holder farmers will have solar-powered freezers to store and keep their tomatoes, vegetables, and chicken fresh — thereby extending its shelve life while saving them money and time.

Entrepreneur like Angela will no longer have to run dangerous and expensive generator to power her business again. With more stable, reliably affordable Solar Mini-Grids, she can boost her businesses productivity and run her home without further dependency on fossil fuels or other dangerous alternatives.

GoSolarAfrica hopes to offer solutions and services that will lead to the widespread adoption of and access to renewable energy among low-income households. This would eliminate the need for the use of kerosene, petrol and candles (fossil fuel) thereby providing a cost-effective alternative, which is an efficient and clean pay-as-you-go off-grid solar energy source.

To scale-up this solution and effort, getting affordable finance and investment into local entrepreneurs is pivotal to the rapid scale up of more new innovative services with potential to fight energy poverty while creating prosperity in Africa.

Poverty and a large number of low-income communities create a veritable window of opportunity to social investors, private equity companies, large foundations and individual investors to co-create and own diverse clean energy portfolios across Africa while responding to the urgent need for higher installed capacity of electricity for the peri-urban and rural areas in Africa. Creation of a favorable investment create jobs, SMEs, energy infrastructure support, increased energy security and business environment, which leads to accelerated deployment and use of renewable technologies and services.

Indeed, poverty is for sale.

Changing the way energy is owned and distributed in Africa, clients shall be able to access and enjoy clean electricity daily for as little as $0.50 per KWh while learning to appreciate photovoltaics (PV) technology. This strategy will help prospects and enthusiasts complete a product cycle by pay-as-you-go metering technology. The effort will continue to provide jobs, training, and Solar PV Mini-Grid electricity to households.

Solar Micro-Entrepreneurs

Ability to learn and do by taking personal responsibility while solving local and social problem is called Entrepreneurship. Qualified solar micro-entrepreneurs will have access to micro credit in form of solar kits that will be the investment needed to jump start their solar micro-business.

Their customers will be micro-businesses, schools, community health centers, and residential customers. Through a well-designed program, customers will be able to pay for only electricity used per day rather than buying expensive solar equipment or dangerous petrol powered generators.

Remember, our largest investment is that which we extend to women. They are industrious, diligent, they work hard to make money, educate their kids academically, and move out of poverty.

Our intervention is simple; to get the poor out of poverty and deliver on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Billions of dollar will not do it — a true partnership on micro-entrepreneurship and a social investment of few hundreds of dollar can, however, make a difference. An investment of $100 can be leveraged through poverty investment to create $10,000 in 10 months.

We are investing and empowering the poor to use these techniques to develop alternatives for investor that want to buy ‘Poverty Opportunity.’