Named one of South Africa’s 100 Most Influential Young People in 2017 by Avance Media, Women in African Power member Nthabi Mosia shares what drives her entrepreneurial spirit and why she harnesses solar technology to make affordable, clean energy solutions available for everyone in Sierra Leone.
More than 87% of Sierra Leone’s 6.4 million people live without electricity, and in rural areas, only 1 out of 100 people have electricity. Inspired by the example set by her South African father’s lifelong activism, Nthabi Mosia learned early on that when you see a problem, you marshal your spirit, courage and compassion to fix it.
As the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Easy Solar, Nthabi knows her calling is to make a difference and works towards building homegrown solutions to one of Africa’s most pressing development challenge — access to electricity.
Nthabi’s goal is to solve the continent’s energy access problem by transforming the way people live, work, and play through access to solar-enabled products and services. As a start-up, Easy Solar provides last-mile distribution for solar-powered devices, providing clean, affordable, and accessible energy to customers underserved by the grid through an extensive network of community-based agents across the country. Since its launch in 2016, the company has provided electricity to over 50,000 Sierra Leoneans.
HOW I’M ENERGIZED
Nthabi works to ensure Sierra Leoneans not only have energy access but can also afford to make payments, using Easy Solar’s innovative rent-to-own financing structure and pay-as-you-go technology that utilizes mobile money. Nthabi knows that for most Easy Solar customers, it is not only their first time using clean electricity products, but also in accessing this type of loan. She notes that,
“This isn’t just about solar products — it is about future innovations and technologies, providing access to finance through solar products.”
For Nthabi, not only does reliable energy access provide life-changing opportunities for customers, but it also fosters an entire commercial ecosystem organized around renewable energy. This approach includes and empowers Sierra Leone-owned businesses by working with community-based agents across the country.
“In today’s world, too many people have to think about energy while in other societies it runs in the background. People have dreams and ideas — and energy enables that.”
In one case, Easy Solar approached Fatima, a smart woman running a small kiosk with many ideas on how to serve the community, to become a sales agent. As is culturally standard in Sierra Leone, Fatima asked her husband for permission, and he initially denied her request. But after he better understood the tasks and schedule required, as well as the added financial security the position might bring, he quickly changed his mind.
Fatima was recently awarded “Agent of the Month” after leading workshops in her small town and becoming a supervisor for 10 agents. She’s now directly responsible for 25% of Easy Solar’s sales.
“People don’t think of energy in terms of kilowatt hours. They think of energy as in, ‘how am I living my life?’ ”
MY FIRST SPARK
Energy access is a deeply personal issue for Nthabi. She remembers rolling blackouts as a child in South Africa and frequent power cuts at her mother’s home in Ghana. These experiences forced a young Nthabi to schedule her daily activities around the expected electricity service.
Nthabi never forgot these experiences as she started her career working on energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa. She reflects that it is “ironic that we can send people to Mars while others are still using kerosene.” While pursuing a master’s degree at Columbia University, she began to think directly about how to solve the problem of access to efficient and renewable energy — but never imagined she would go into entrepreneurship. Her path was illuminated by a simple yet powerful philosophy:
“The scale of the energy access challenge means that our dreams have to be big too.”