Delivering clean, affordable, solar light to the people in off-grid areas
Germany-based solar energy provider Little Sun has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) by committing to provide clean and affordable solar lighting to 5 million people in Africa while bringing livelihood opportunities and training to at least 4,000 local micro-entrepreneur distributors until 2020.
Today there are 1.1 billion people worldwide without access to electricity. These ‘off-grid’ communities are not able to light their homes, charge mobile phones or access other basic services. Education levels in these areas remain low since children cannot study after sunset. Working hours are limited to the daytime, which decreases incomes. Providing medical care – and delivering babies – becomes much more risky at night.
Founded in 2012, Little Sun’s mission is to bring affordable solar light to the over 1 billion people worldwide living without electricity. The company seeks to strengthen communities from the inside by creating local income opportunities through a distribution network comprised of local entrepreneurs. Its products’ price point is affordable for consumers while still allowing for profits to be made by these local distributors.
Little Sun is a social business operating with a unique global model, providing affordable energy access units in off-grid areas as well as selling lamps and solar powered phone chargers in the global north to fund the project, to share a strong symbol of renewable energy, and to create a more interconnected world.
The company’s inclusive business strategy focuses on developing its local distributors’ businesses through training and support with marketing and sales. Little Sun is also tackling the challenge of limited logistics and retail opportunities in remote areas through strategic partnerships with local businesses, NGOs and community-based organizations.
In addition to producing solar lights, Little Sun creates targeted training materials to guide its partners in addressing customers’ needs and evolving their business strategies. Its Berlin-based team gets involved at the local level by delivering workshops on solar technology, sales and distribution planning, financing, accounting and recruitment.
While funding is a major challenge for scaling up solar solutions in rural areas, Little Sun is developing innovative flexible-payment and credit models, and forging strategic partnerships with village savings and loan associations. And since the company is able to achieve greater margins in higher-income areas, it can offer realistic payment terms, deferred financing and subsidies in lower-income communities.
Amid growing awareness of the risks of kerosene and the financial benefits of sustainable lighting, the company’s management expects demand for its solar products to expand significantly. Already active in over ten sub-Saharan African countries, Little Sun is planning to expand its operations in these countries before moving to other regions in order to ensure a strong distribution network.