Case: Mali Solar Lighting Kits for rural areas

Developing a Supply Chain to Enable Access to Solar Lighting Kits for Rural Women in Mali

By Pierre Dembele, Mali Folkecenter (MFC), Climate Change department, INFORSE-Africa

1. Background of the Project

It is estimated that about 1,7 billion people in the world don’t have access to electricity. According to the international agency for energy the investment in expending the electric grid will not have a significant effect by 2030 as still 1,4 billion will remain without access to modern energy services. This lack of access to electricity is more severe in sub-Saharan Africa where 500 millions peoples don’t have access to any modern form of energy, particularly in rural areas where electricity access rate is around 2%. Lighting account for the bulk of the expenditures on energy, as it account for between 10 to 15% of the total revenue of the households. It is also demonstrating the cost of lighting of the rural houses are usually cover by women, who’s revenues are already very low.

Mali is no exception, with electricity coverage standing in 2009 at around 60% in urban areas and falling to about 12% in rural areas, where the majority of the population live. At current electrification rates, the majority of people living in rural areas, especially the poor, will continue to have no access to modern energy services for the next decade at least. In the frame of it rural electrification programme, the government of Mali has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving access to electricity in rural areas. Subsidies are provided by AMADER (Malian Agency for Household Energy and Rural Electrification) to private operators to electrify rural settlements. This has contributed to increase the rural electrification rate from less than 1% in 2003 to about 12% in 2009. However significant obstacles remain. Most private operators are interested only in rural towns and villages that are large enough to offer a return on investment, meaning that the most isolated populations in small villages (500 to 1 000 inhabitants) remain without electricity. From the 12,000 Malian villages, less than 300 have been electrify so far with support from AMADER and other organisation.

This limited access of the majority of Malian rural households to electricity results in heavy dependence on kerosene lamps for home lighting, which limit the improvement of their life style, social activities and health as the consumption of kerosene have many negatives impacts including indoor pollution, respiratory illnesses and fire hazards. In addition is most of the villages, the cost for kerosene for lighting are cover by rural women. The recent development of lighting technologies, such as energy saving light bulbs, light emitting diodes (LED) with small solar panels of capacity between 1 to 2 watts, etc has open the way to cleaner and economic lighting solutions especially for rural household. However, there are barriers for the market penetration with good quality products. Most of the good quality lighting technologies available in Mali are concentrated in the urban city and don’t reach the rural and peri-urban areas.

Also the income level of people doesn’t allow them to pay at once and there is no credit mechanism available. In addition as mentioned early, there is limited access to credit from micro financing for potential entrepreneurs for the delivery of energy solutions. Potential energy entrepreneurs lack the business skills and expertise and business development services to ensure successful start-up and growth of rural energy business.

2. Description of the Project Activities

The objective of the project is to facilitate access of the rural population to quality lighting technology by bridging the gap between the urban dwellers and the rural retailers.

Christian Aid throught its pro-poor energy innovation fund, provided grant to Mali-Folkecenter Nyetaa to initiate the distribution network.

The solar lantern has the lamp and battery combine dine one portable unit. A Small PV module 1.5 Wp is use to charge the battery as well as for mobile phone charging. The pack is equipped with five different telophone charger headsets.

The solar lantern distribution model combines the provision of training of retailers in products marketing and maintenance with dedicated revolving fund for lending to retailers and final consumers

The role of the different actor involved in the distribution chain is as follows:

· Mali-Folkecenter Nyetaa: is responsible for the overall coordination of the project and the provision of marketing advise to the retailers. MFC is also responsible for the monitoring of the price charged by the retailers, which has been set to maximum of 30 Euros.

· ACCESS SARL: a private enterprise is responsible for the identification potential retailers comprising artisans or shopkeepers with a selling skill. ACCESS also provides the retailers with necessary technical training for the maintenance of the products. There are also informal training during regular monitoring by the staff of ACCESS SARL to check the work of the retailers and exchange on any problems arising. After these training ACCESS supply the retailers with stock of solar lanterns.

· The Retailers and Women cooperative receive the stock of solar lantern from ACCESS SARL and sell them the final consumers.

· In order to facilitate access to financial resources, part of the project grant is used as dedicated revolving fund placed at MFC micro finance institution (Nyetaa Finance) to facilitate lending to both retailers and the consumers for the purchase of the solar kits. Instead of giving cash money to the borrowers, Nyetaa Finance Nyetaa give them vouchers which allow them to get the solar kits from ACCESS SARL. Nyetaa is responsible for collecting the repayment from the borrowers and pay ACCESS SARL.

· The model is designed to be self-sustaining after 12 months of operation. At the end of the project when the distribution network is well developed, ACCESS SARL will use its own money to purchase additional solar kits to continue the distribution and upscale the model to others areas. In this case Access can develop in local Bank a loan facility.

3. Benefits of the Project

The project has many benefits including:
· The customers who buy the solar panel and lamp, phone chargers have the potential to save some money over the first year, which will increase every year, as the initial cost of the kit would have been incurred over the first year.
· In addition, the health of the family will be improved dramatically when household use of kerosene decreases, eliminating toxic fumes, smoke and fire hazards.
· The solar kits also make reading possible and at night add more hours of productivity to the day, improve communications by enabling mobile phone use in area where there is no electricity.
· The retailers who sell the products will also make some profit on each solar kit. The business model estimate the profit for retailers at 3 euros per kit and a cost savings for the households to 125 Euros per year as compared to kerosene lighting.

· In addition the replacement of kerosene lamp with solar lantern will reduce the emissions of greenhouse gas.

4. Lessons Learned and Policy Implication

This project demonstrates that:
· if appropriate market-based technologies delivery mechanisms are put in place, rural poor are “valuable customers” who could get access to energy end use appliances on a commercial basis not as “recipients of charity”.

· the delivery of energy products could also create jobs and generate income for local entrepreneurs and saving for the households.

More information:
Information on MFC’s solar energy projects here


INFORSE globe logo
Energy Access

Solutions to provide energy access for all


· East Africa: Scaling up Access to Modern Energy Services

  · Kenya: Decentralizing Power Policy
  · Kenya: Afforestation for Charcoal
  · Mali: Jatropha Biofuel for Rural Electrification

· Mali: Productive Use of Energy

  · Mali: Solar Lighting Kits for Rural Areas
  · Uganda: Feed-in Tariff for Renewable Energy
  · India: Solar Dryer
  · India: Solar Lantern Charging Station
  · India: Household Biogas Plant
  · India: Micro-Agroecological Village Development Model
  · Nepal: Improved Water Mills
  · Nepal: Charging Centre for Solar Lamps
  · Sri Lanka: Commercialization of Improved Cookstoves
  · Sri Lanka: Standard Code for Domestic Biogas Systems
The cases were collected in the framework of the "Southern Voices on Climate Change" Project. Link: