Imagine life without electricity. It is actually quite hard, as most of us are used to unlimited, stable access to energy and only need to press a switch to get power. More than 1 billion people around the world do not have access to electricity, resulting in limited opportunities to develop their lives.
Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and BRIGHT Products have started the project “Education 4 Sustainability” in Somalia and Burundi with support from Innovation Norway’s Vision 2030 grant. The project has a unique approach of combining solar energy with education and income generating activities. It was started in August 2018 and was one of the finalists for the sustainability award “Årets Håndtrykk 2018” by Storebrand in Norway.
Energy Access for Marginalised Populations
The two East African countries, Somalia and Burundi, both suffer from limited access to energy, especially in rural areas. Multiple natural disasters, armed conflicts combined with long-term political and economic instability has affected the countries for years, making it difficult for the population to prosper. Access to affordable and renewable energy is a catalyst for development. Being self-sufficient with energy in each household is often the most reliable solution in countries like Somalia and Burundi.
Electricity grid connection is often expensive and unstable, and most often it is not available in rural areas at all. Alternative, unclean energy sources such as coal, kerosene and one-time use batteries are both costly and unsafe. Deforestation and land degradation are huge problems in many African countries, resulting in loss of biodiversity, land productivity, supply of water and increasing the risk of negative climate change. One family can save an average of more than USD 200 annually by replacing such unclean energy with an independent and sustainable solar energy product. With the more that 300 sunny days annually in Somalia and Burundi there is a great potential for solar energy.
Read more about savings with solar products here and increased income here.
Education for Self-Reliance
BRIGHT has developed a new digital e-learning tool, in collaboration with Leap Learning and NCA, especially for people wanting to become independent entrepreneurs. The education tool provides entrepreneurial skills and knowledge about solar energy through an interactive approach using apps, videos and multiple-choice games to engage the learner. NCA used this tool to trained a total of 400 participants, mostly unemployed women and youth in Somalia and Burundi, and provided them with the needed skills to improve their livelihoods.
Farhiya who is an internally displaced Somali woman has completed the training programme and is now selling BRIGHT products to other families. Read more about how the “Education 4 Sustainabilty” project has positively impacted her life.
Over 500 quality solar products was provided to the project giving the participants the self-reliant opportunity to buy or resell solar energy products. With the mobile payment technology, pay-as-you-go, the solar products can be payed off in small installments, making it possible and affordable for anyone to start using solar energy.
Independent Solar Entrepreneurs
Despite the complex settings of Somalia and Burundi “Education 4 Sustainability” has achieved great results:
- 389 participants have been educated in entrepreneurship and solar energy using e-learning tools
- 75% of them have actively used the education to engaged in entrepreneurial activities or run their own business
- 50% of them have purchased a solar product to be used in their home, shop or business.
- 27 entrepreneurs have started their own business by becoming local resellers of BRIGHT´s solar products offered with pay-as-you-go mobile payment
- 95% of the BRIGHT Solar Home Systems were sold to local families and business-owners within the first two months of the project
The educated solar entrepreneurs earn commission on each sold product. All of the solar products have been sold in their surrounding areas. When solar products are sold they will be replenished by Norwegian Church Aid, enabling more people to use solar energy over time.
The goal of the “Education 4 Sustainability” project is simple: create jobs and access to clean energy. These two elements are catalysts for development and participates in achieving nine out of 17 UN Sustainability Goals (SDG) such as affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, quality education, and good health and well-being.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
The “Education 4 Sustainability” project has contributed to many of the Sustainable Development Goals, mainly because of the partnership between BRIGHT and NCA where competencies and knowledge are shared across sectors. The collaboration between the two will continue. They hope to inspire more marginalised people to see the opportunities of engaging in independent entrepreneurship and using solar energy.