Investments Bring Light to Haitian Households
USAID’s Haiti INVEST is an activity that aims to facilitate access to capital — both local and foreign — for growing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Haiti to support job creation and inclusive economic growth. Haiti INVEST does not make grants to SMEs but works mainly through a network of selected business advisors in Haiti or abroad who provide strategic and financial assistance. To date, the support from Haiti INVSET and its partner transaction advisors has led to the creation of 424 jobs for Haitians.
By Carolanne Chanik, INVEST Communications Advisor
Anne Indira Julien struggled to assist her daughter with her homework after dark. “Since electricity service is inconsistent, and I don’t have an inverter or generator, there wasn’t much we could do after sundown,” explains Anne. “We were basically stuck in the dark.”
She is not alone. Only a quarter of the Haitian population has access to electricity. The national power utility company, Electricité d’Haïti (EDH), predominantly serves the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, and a limited number of isolated power grids connect the rest of the country. Many rural Haitians have limited alternatives to power their homes.
“There’s always been a shortage of electricity in the country,” says Anne. “But in recent years, these shortages have only accelerated.” To supplement her family’s power supply, Anne purchased an EKOTEK solar home system several years ago. She liked it so much that she purchased four more for family members.
“It worked really well and it’s still working today, five years later,” says Anne. “I can help my daughter with her studies when I get home from work, charge my phone, and light my house. The light is incredibly bright.”
The EKOTEK line of solar products, distributed by ESG Group S.A., a Haitian company, is working to help consumers access reliable energy, particularly in semi-urban and rural areas. ESG Group has been operating in Haiti and the Caribbean since 2003 with a team of 70 full-time employees, and is part of a larger global group that has sold over one million EKOTEK solar and rechargeable products around the world through a chain of 200,000 retailers. While the global group continued to expand, ESG Group faced growth challenges in Haiti, particularly limited access to capital.
USAID’s Haiti INVEST program has played a critical role in helping ESG Group expand its sale of EKOTEK products in Haiti by facilitating a loan to the company from a local development bank. Haiti INVEST helps Haitian businesses prepare to solicit loans or raise investment from local and foreign investors. The program is designed to unlock investment capital for growing businesses as a way to advance more inclusive, locally-driven, economic growth and social development.
Through the Haiti INVEST activity, USAID works with Haitian business advisory services firms, like GECA, one of the six transaction advisors participating in the investment facilitation program to help local businesses like ESG Group prepare to solicit and access capital to expand their operations. Transaction advisors provide technical assistance to small and medium enterprises, or SMEs, so they’ll have the complete set of documentation necessary to approach banks or investors.
GECA helped the ESG group prepare a complete business plan to finalize its loan request to FDI (Fonds de Développement Industriel), a local development bank. With support from USAID’s Haiti INVEST, ESG Group received a $500,000 loan from FDI and its partner, the Off Grid Electricity Fund (OGEF).
FDI had already partnered with OGEF to promote the use of solar energy in Haiti. OGEF provides capital to off-grid electricity companies to accelerate the electrification of Haiti’s underserved regions. The $500,000 loan is part of ESG Group’s effort to raise $1.5 million to expand its service offerings and products.
“Our focus is on providing reliable and cost-effective solar solutions designed to improve the lives of people who don’t have access to the electric grid,” says ESG Group CEO Stephan Nars. “Through our work with USAID’s Haiti INVEST, OGEF and FDI, we hope to soon have EKOTEK products in 150,000 Haitian households, which will provide energy access to about 750,000 people.”
The FDI loan will help ESG Group S.A. employ more people in its marketing and sales departments to increase its presence in previously underserved provinces.
“We’ve already started creating jobs in Port-au-Prince and Les Cayes,” says Stephan. “We’re excited to keep growing.
“We’re interested in contributing to the sustainable development of Haiti, and one way to do that is by connecting people to the electricity they need,” adds Béatrice Duret Gentil, the chief financial officer at GECA. “Haitian SMEs, such as solar companies, experience many barriers to scale. Our job is to connect SMEs to funding opportunities that help grow our country’s private sector.”
As of June 2021, USAID Haiti-INVEST is supporting 39 SMEs to become investment ready, and has facilitated private sector investments totalling $18.3 million for nine SMEs. That includes Paon Bleu, a digital-microfinance company that supports access to credit for underserved people, and Accesso Haiti, an agribusiness that support farmers working in peanut and mango production for local and export markets.