ONE is inviting friends and supporters to share ideas on how to provide energy for the world’s poorest people as part of our Energy Poverty Challenge. In this piece, Sandra R. Curtis, International Marketing Fellow of d.light, discusses how companies can increase access to modern energy and provide solar lighting options to poor or overlooked communities.
To the over two billion people around the world who do not have access to reliable electricity, d.light is just that . . . a delight. The company’s initial goal is to replace every kerosene lantern with clean, safe, reliable, bright light.
This is not an easy market to reach, extending across cultures, boundaries and generations.
Families not connected to traditional electricity infrastructure grids make up most of what is often referred to as the “bottom of the pyramid”—the largest consumer market comprised of the poorest households. These people can also live in some of the toughest environments on the planet. Therefore, providing lighting products to such off-grid households require consumer products that are high quality, well-designed, durable, and affordable. d.light is one of a group of companies whose products are meeting the test. The response and results have been remarkably effective.
Take Tanzania’s Mafia Island. With no electricity on the island, children were using dim, dangerous and polluting kerosene lamps to study. Last year, d.light provided high quality solar lighting to students in partnership with Solar Aid.
The collaboration was so successful, it spawned an expansion program, which targets the broader Mafia community. Solar Aid’s social enterprise arm, SunnyMoney, is d.light’s partner on the follow-up project.
d.light’s partnership with SunnyMoney provides several benefits, notes an island headmaster. Families save on these purchases and no one breathes their unhealthy fumes. Children can study at night without the risk of fire from kerosene lamps or candles; the average study time for students using the solar lights increased by 1-3 hours per night. An estimated 44% of the households on Mafia Island are now owners of at least one solar lamp.
“We do not know of any other place in the whole of Africa where over 40% of households own a solar lamp!” says John Kean, Managing Director of SunnyMoney “For us, this is a glimpse of Africa’s future. ”
In three years of products in the marketplace, d.light has expanded to over 40 countries around the globe, pioneering off-grid options for home, school and business use. The approach doesn’t simply treat the poor as being poor, but instead respects them as a consumer wanting a reliable product. This business approach to increasing access to the poorest has helped to build local consumer markets, distribution channels and employment opportunities, while saving people money in the long term as they no-longer have to pay for kerosene fuel. A social enterprise for-profit company, d.light focuses on a double bottom line in which the social impact is just as important as its financial sustainability.
d.light is just one of the companies that will play a crucial role in illuminating not only Africa, but the 4 out of 7 billion people worldwide who live without reliable electricity. Over the next ten years, the company’s mission will provide “A Brighter Future” for all.
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