A social enterprise to improve access to elec ...

Le Young Belgian engineer Ruben Bäumer leads the Sénérgie initiative, a social enterprise that aims at improving access to electricity in Senegal by selling solar kits. He présents this project and analyses its potential and challenges.

I wanted to work in solidarity and development, by doing something concrete in the field in my sector, engineering. We started with a social enterprise in Senegal, selling small solar panels designed in Germany by Fosera and manufactured in Thailand. These high-quality kits, which we sell at around EUR 250, are equipped with four LED lamps, a mobile phone charger and a radio. We have established a partnership with Caurie, a local microfinance institution, to allow the purchase of the product to be spread out over 18 months, with a 3-year guarantee for the solar kit, including the lithium battery.

How did you start ?

In 2014, we conducted a feasibility study in the field with 30 solar kits. We financed this pilot project with a crowdfunding campaign and thanks to support from Academics for Development, a student organization which started in Louvain and has expanded to other universities in Belgium. It aims to give students, young students like me, the opportunity of going to developing countries to get involved in social entrepreneurship and put their knowledge into practice with local entrepreneurs.

Why did you choose Senegal ?

In West Africa, the solar energy market is not as developed as in Eastern or Southern Africa. This is one of the reasons why we started in Senegal.

Read more on the blog Ideas For Development realized by AFD

Palmis Enèji: from NGO to enterprise – the ...

In 2012, the French NGO EDM launched a programme to distribute Palmis Enèji cooking and lighting appliances to meet energy demand among the poorest sections of the Haitian population. Two years ago, that social business became a public limited company. This change in status and a partnership with Total Haiti and the microfinance institution PMS has enabled it to expand its activities and will help to underpin its sustainability.

Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world1, has very high levels of energy poverty (72% of households have no electricity). Haitian families use candles and kerosene lanterns for lighting and 95% of households use very basic stoves and wood or charcoal for cooking, thereby exa- cerbating the problem of deforestation. These cooking arrangements are often inefficient and the fumes cause respiratory diseases.

However, more suitable equipment which is less damaging to human health and the environment does exist. Solar lanterns provide better quality lighting and are cheaper in the long term. Improved stoves and table-top cookers powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)2 use less energy for cooking. But such appliances are hard to obtain in Haiti and very few financial service companies are prepared to finance their purchase. Palmis Enèji was set up – initially as a programme designed and managed by the French NGO Entrepreneurs du Monde (EDM) – to boost their distribution.

Changing status for sustainable action

EDM applies a social entrepreneurship model to support the distribution of appliances that have a very positive impact on health, the economy and the environment among the poorest populations in developing countries. In Haiti, Entrepre- neurs du Monde set about distributing gas- fired table-top cookers and improved wood/ charcoal-burning stoves and solar lanterns. The Palmis Enèji project was launched in 2012 as an Entrepreneurs du Monde programme. Because it was an NGO-sponsored programme, Palmis Enèji was able to take the time to carry out a market survey and test its model (recruit a management and sales team, set up the first franchise outlets, develop a range of products, etc.). It was primarily during this phase that it embarked on social marketing nationwide.

Read more on the blog Private Sector & Development, realized by Proparco.