Posts Tagged ‘solar’

Household energy consumption behaviour in East Africa: Lighting & Conclusion (3 of 3 Parts)

 

Jua Kali Kerosene Lamp, Kenya

The following is extracted from a six month study during 2012 on household energy consumption behaviour in rural Kenya and Rwanda among the lower income demographic, that led to an understanding of some of barriers hampering the sales of client’s solar products in this market. This 3rd and final part will focus on fuel usage and consumption behaviours for lighting. Users sampled for this study were selected based on varying fuel consumption patterns, ranging from a single homestead to a rural hotel open from dawn to 1am offering solar powered football on television.

Fuel Choice and Consumption Behaviour is Influenced by Duration and Timing of the Need

Kerosene is the primary source of fuel for lighting for those who live without access to electricity, regardless of whether its on their shamba, or in a building in town. Not only is the reach of grid access limited to a small percentage of rural Kenyans but the cost of the final connection to the dwelling is also a barrier for many. Due to the nature of this project’s focus, the majority of homes visited were without a solar home system.

Hurricane lanterns are the most popular lighting devices among kerosene users, as the glass covering the lamp protects the flame as well as contains the smell and smoke. With prices as low as 250Kes, everyone has at least one, if not more at home and the number maintained depends on size of the family, number of buildings on the homestead and the fluctuating ability to purchase fuel.

Pressure lamps can cost ten times as much and consume far more fuel although they offer a brighter light – they were not seen in Makueni households and the only regular user was the furniture maker who restricted its use to times of high productivity during the Christmas season. In Kisii, they are owned by members of the congregation who use them once a month for religious functions and the fuel is provided by the church. Gregory the schoolteacher called them “gas guzzlers” whose bright light was not worth either the high running cost or price of the device itself.

Everyone owns a few small tin lamps but they were referred to as something discarded during the upwardly mobile climb to a hurricane lantern – “Oh, we must have a few lying about somewhere in a dusty corner” said one wife while Mama Grace only used it in the confines of the kitchen building where the open flame, with its attendant smoke would make no difference. However, due to their small size, they require very small amounts of kerosene and tend to be kept as a backup for times of need when the fuel supply runs low or to be used by the aged, such as Kilonzi’s grandmother who finds the hurricane lantern difficult to maintain.

In addition to kerosene fuelled lamps and lanterns, every home owned at least one flashlight of some sort, whether powered by dry cell batteries, grid rechargeable or disposable for what they referred to as “emergencies or needing to go outside at night”. By emergency, they meant that this form of light was faster and easier to turn for sudden need than the more complicated task of lighting a kerosene lamp, plus it could be used in wind or rain. For many, this item received first priority if resources such as batteries or cash for charging were limited.

What stood out across the board was that everyone knew, almost to the minute in some cases, exactly when they used their light source. This behaviour was evident regardless of the household’s energy source including if it was solar power and thus “free”. Answers would range in specificity from estimates “around 7pm to maybe 10pm, sometimes later” to on the dot timings “from 5.45am to 6.30am in the morning”.

“I only use it for children to study” Mama John who scrimped and saved for solar

This gives rise to the conjecture that the fundamental observation in household financial behaviour of being able to control time (duration, frequency, periodicity) and money(whether prepaid source of fuel like kerosene or postpaid like electricity), is an ingrained habit even after upward mobility has removed the need for such stringent conservation. SHS do not require the same frugality daily use and cost and this can be seen in increased use of entertainment appliances like televisions and radios but lights still follow this pattern. However, it can also be said that rural life is slow to change in response to the introduction of modern conveniences and this may also be a significant factor.

The dry cell battery

Similar patterns of duration and accuracy of timing were also observed in choice and purchase of dry cell batteries, particularly for the radio. People knew which specific programs they wanted to listen to thus the
time and duration of their use of the radio. Everyone wanted to be able to listen to the radio more often but conserved battery life for as long as possible. Many even acknowledged that expensive brands like Eveready which cost 65Kes a pair lasted three times as long as the cheaper Chinese Lion brand costing only 30kes the pair but their irregular cash flows acted as a barrier to purchase dependant as they were on what cash was available on hand (or in pocket) at time of need.

Concluding Remarks

Consumers with limited incomes prioritize household energy and fuel spending according to importance for survival. Food and thus cooking come first followed by light. Everything else depends on the criticality of need against funds available. For example, Muthoka, who was unemployed and living on his small subsistence farm deep in the interior away from a market town, said that if he had to choose between 20Kes worth of kerosene or charging his mobile phone, he would choose kerosene first for lighting was more important to him than his mobile.

Similarly, Gregory the schoolteacher, put batteries for the emergency flashlight as more important than for playing the radio. The question becomes “What can we do without?” and only one of the many respondents of the more general household survey prioritized her mobile phone over light but she was a business woman whose income depended on her being available for calls.

The caveat here is that these answers are not absolutes and while most people will say that the phone is less important, there will be times of need when charging the phone or topping up airtime will be critical.

However, unlike kerosene or dry cell batteries for light, one can always borrow a friend or neighbour’s phone for an emergency phone call. These are the kinds of trade-offs people make when living on the edge on limited and irregular cash flows.

Pricing is rarely the problem

These insights on people’s household energy management and purchasing patterns, based as they are on the limitations and timing of their income sources are what led to the conclusion that the actual price itself was not the barrier to sales but instead it was a combination of factors starting with the choice of packaging and the subsequent pricing and sales strategy.

 

Part One: Introduction to Household Energy Consumption Behaviour Study in East Africa (2012)
Part Two: Cooking

Household energy consumption behavioural study in East Africa: Cooking (Part 2 of 3)

Scrap wood fueled three stone fire in sheltered corner

The following is extracted from a six month study during 2012 on household energy consumption behaviour in rural Kenya and Rwanda among the lower income demographic, that led to an understanding of some of barriers hampering the sales of client’s solar products in this market. This 2nd part will focus on fuel usage and consumption behaviours for cooking. Users sampled for this study were selected based on varying fuel consumption patterns, ranging from a single homestead to a rural hotel catering for more than 12 hours a day.

Fuel Usage Behaviour is Influenced Greatly by Location

Choice of fuel and decisions on quantity kept in stock for cooking is dependent on the location of the primary residence rather than income. Rural homesteads in Kenya have a separate outhouse for cooking and firewood is the preferred choice of fuel even in those regions where shambas are too small to support their own grove of trees.

Kilonzi’s wife dreams of upgrading to an LPG cookstove some day in the future

That is, while Kilonzi’s wife on a large shamba in Makueni might stack enough firewood for just two or three days, collected for free from her own backyard, Mama Grace the tea farmer with land constraints in Kisii will purchase an entire tree to last her for a month. Meanwhile, the more economically challenged on small shambas devote a week foraging far and wide for enough brushwood to last for two or three months before needing to take time away again from more pressing household duties.

Charcoal is also used on the homestead but only for certain tasks like making chapatis or for quickly brewing tea for visitors or in the morning rush before school or work. Even if the charcoal is made right on the shamba from a tree that needed felling, most of it is kept aside for sale and considered a source of cash money rather than consumed as fuel.

Residents who live away from their shambas, taking up rooms in town due to their work where cooking must be done in the same space as living and other activities, cannot use firewood. In fact, if renting, landlords clearly state that the use of firewood is banned, as a safety precaution. Thus, urban residents are forced to choose fuels that can be used in small, portable cooking stoves and charcoal ends up being the most common due to its relative cost as compared to kerosene. Those who do own a kerosene stove are in the minority and again, its use is only for very specific tasks that require speed such as making tea for visitors or in the morning.

Heavy Duty Charcoal Usage by Hotel

For those whose primary fuel for cooking is charcoal, the quantity purchased is dependant on cash in hand if their income is not from a salaried position and this ranges from a ‘deben’ which lasts for about 5 or 6 days and costs around 100 – 130 Kes to an entire sack which ranges from 500 to 750 Kes and can last as long as a month. Pricing for fuel is closely related to its proximity to the source, since transportation can be expensive and convenience is a service that comes with a premium. Kerosene which sells for 83 Kes a litre at the petrol station in town was found to be selling at a rate of 140Kes/litre at a small duka deep in the interior.

Part One: Introduction to Household Energy Consumption Behaviour Study in East Africa (2012)
Part Three: Lighting & Concluding Remarks

Introduction to rural household energy consumption behaviour in East Africa (1 of 3 parts)

The following is extracted from a six month study during 2012 on household energy consumption behaviour in rural Kenya and Rwanda among the lower income demographic, that led to an understanding of some of barriers hampering the sales of client’s solar products in this market. This first part is an overview of household financial management in conditions irregular and unpredictable income streams from a variety of sources. The 2nd and 3rd part will focus on fuel usage and consumption behaviours for cooking and for lighting separately. Users sampled for this study were selected based on varying fuel consumption patterns, ranging from a single homestead to a rural hotel catering for more than 12 hours a day.

Aspirational ownership and tangible evidence of savings in prepaid purchase model of solar panel, as seen in Chuka, Kenya (Photo: Niti Bhan, February 2012)

Rural Kenyans are not very different from rural Filipinos or Malawians or Indians when it comes to the way they manage their daily household expenses. Similarities in decision making, in purchasing patterns and in observed consumer behaviour, all stem from the same underlying need to plan and manage on irregular incomes from a variety of multiple sources in harsh environments of scarcity and uncertainty. The underlying driver is always to stretch the limited shilling, rupee or peso to the maximum while keeping one’s head above water.

With the exception of the salaried schoolteacher, who managed on fixed amounts of cash paid predictably on a calender schedule, the rest juggled an irregular cash flow against required expenses, attempting to minimize the differences over calender time and as a planning mechanism across the natural year’s seasons of abundance and scarcity. Even cash croppers like Mama Grace, who received end month payments from the tea factory, coped with the significant difference in the quality and quantity of tea harvested during the wet and the dry seasons with a variance of as much as 300% between high and low payments.

Rural homesteads manage their household finances rather like a “portfolio of investments” that mature over varying times such as cow’s milk which can be sold daily for cash, while a chicken takes less time than a field of maize to be ready for harvest and sale. Thus decisions are made based on timing of the expense and the choice of ‘investment’ to liquidate on what was ‘ready’ as well as the amount of cash required. For example, in Kilala livestock market it is a known fact that livestock prices always drop in January as its time for first term school fees and everybody needs to sell to raise the necessary cash. Similarly, major purchases or cash outlays are planned for known times of abundance such as right after the seasonal harvest.

Unlike those on a fixed salary who are able to plan ahead, those on irregular incomes need greater control and flexibility over the timing – that is the frequency and the periodicity; and well the amount – in cash or kind; of their cash flow, as a planning mechanism for financial management. In fact, the greater the span of control the customer has over their time and money, as articulated above, the greater the success of a business model or payment plan. This is why prepaid airtime is the preferred model for 96% of the African continent’s 700 million mobile phone users and also why kerosene has been so hard to dislodge. It can be purchased by cash amount (say 40 Kes worth) or quantity (half a litre or 5 litres) on demand or in bulk, and then frugally used for as long as possible, allowing consumers control over their “time” and “money” with great flexibility.

Observations on household fuel and energy use reflect these purchasing patterns and consumer behaviour. Cooking and then lighting are the most important needs, and the two elements of time and money as discussed above, show up in the form of duration and location. While duration of use has a direct relationship to the amount of time and money required, location has a critical bearing on behaviour in rural Kenya as will be seen in forthcoming posts.

 

Part One: Introduction to Household Energy Consumption Behaviour Study in East Africa (2012)
Part Two: Cooking
Part Three: Lighting & Concluding Remarks

Tilting at windmills – inevitably renewable

Windmills, Holland October 1st, 2012

Why was it so hard for people to massively change energy infrastructure? There are parts of the world where as little as 10% of the population has access to energy. Innovative solutions and business models can be tested very easily. The latest we hear is MKopa from Kenya, attempting to implement a pay as you go payment plan via the SIM card and MPesa. This is initially available for solar power lighting solutions or home systems, I am not yet clear.

There are suddenly many variations on this theme – MeraGao in Western India, Eight19 also in Kenya, while Nuru offers energy as a service. In the next decade or so, we’ll have a better idea of what has emerged in the household energy solutions space. I suspect the existing model is already obsolete. Giant Asian cities like Manila and Singapore have begun pilot testing prepaid electricity which also tracks energy consumption, in the case of the island nation.

Why have I been getting so grumpy about well meaning social enterprise?

Yesterday’s post deconstructing The Economist article on the promise of solar lighting for the millions of poor living without electricity made me question my strongly worded response. Another recent one is from well meaning Guardian, whose first of the 15 innovations they claim will change lives in Africa is the now forgotten Hippo Roller. Even the designer behind that project prefers not to talk about it, but trust the media to dig it up in order to flesh out their content. Theirs is the third Africa specific section to be launched in the recent weeks and yes, there’s a dearth of information for the armchair journalist.

Why do articles like this make me cranky?

Because they do more harm than they help. By inaccurately portraying the market and its opportunities – whether its the lower income demographic in Africa or India – they inspire well meaning but fundamentally unsound business plans and social entrepreneurs to sink valuable time and effort into ineffectual social goodness. It is irresponsible journalism.

Writing such slapdash articles only serve to create a rosy view, blurring into fuzzy altruistic goodness, which overlooks the hardcore realities of establishing profitable business enterprises in these challenging markets in order to serve the most demanding customers successfully. They leave you with the impression that all you have to do is ensure your product reaches every supermarket shelf and it’ll simply sell like hotcakes.

If it were still only the beginning of the “fortune seeking at the bottom of the pyramid” era, when companies and startups had to be encouraged to look at this market, then this overblown hype and hoopla might be understandable. Today, some half a decade or more later, it simply serves to underline the ignorant arrogance with which these populations are viewed.

Deconstructing the solar lighting market hype

Nairobi solar lantern shop, July 12th 2012

The Economist’s Q3 2012 Technology Quarterly has a paean on the promise of solar lanterns replacing nasty, stinky kerosene once and for all. Of note is the careful mention of MKopa, a Nairobi based startup founded by Nick Hughes of MPesa fame, until now conducting pilot tests in stealth mode. But the rest of the article is still the usual rehash of the immense promise of solar lighting to finally get rid of that incumbent fossil fuel, something social enterprises like d.light have been attempting to fulfill for some 4 or 5 years now.

Why isn’t anyone asking what’s taking so long for this mythical promise to bear fruit? I’d like to start by deconstructing the article and identifying the implicit underlying assumptions that tend to trip the promise keepers.

As previously happened with mobile phones, solar lighting is falling in price, improving in quality and benefiting from new business models that make it more accessible and affordable to those at the bottom of the pyramid. And its spread is sustainable because it is being driven by market forces, not charity.

Show me the case study of a successful example of this product becoming a sustainable business proposition. Every company mentioned in the article is either in pilot testing new business models or talking about their performance and brightness, even while distributing via NGOs. If this is a consumer product business for patient capital then why aren’t the Chinese brands waiting (or mentioned, for that matter)?

Phones spread quickly because they provided a substitute for travel and poor infrastructure, helped traders find better prices and boosted entrepreneurship. For a fisherman or a farmer, buying a mobile phone made sense because it paid for itself within a few months. The economic case for solar lighting is even clearer: buying a lamp that charges in the sun during the day, and then produces light at night, can eliminate spending on the kerosene that fuels conventional lamps.

 The economic case might be clearer but the reality is far more complex than that. Lets compare the market entry strategies of mobile manufacturers in their pioneering heydays and the solar lantern makers. Where is the user research and consumer insight on existing household energy usage and purchasing patterns that might shed a light on this ongoing multi-year promise?

The mobile phone is a personal asset. Most people put aside bits and bobs of cash towards their purchase of their phone. It belongs to them and there is prideful ownership and status involved with models and brands.

The solar lantern is not a personal asset. It belongs to and will be used by the entire household. There may be more than one adult earning member of such households. The decision making involved is one of group dynamics, never as simple or easy as that of an individual purchase.

Eliminating spending on kerosene is not the same as generating income by the way of the phone.

Additionally, the phone has become a ‘must have’ and is aspirational, in addition to connecting you instantly to your social network. Small and portable solar lanterns are not yet status symbols nor aspirational in anyway, given that much of the marketing communication places emphasis on saving money on kerosene. Whooptydoo, says the subsistence farmer whose dreams might include TV sets and radios, to be added over time, in modular fashion, to the solar home system.

In an informal test of solar lights carried out by The Economist in Africa, users grumbled about the soapy quality of light and lantern-style design. But the company has won plaudits for its other models: its largest lamp, the S250, was included by the British Museum in its “History of the World in 100 Objects” exhibition as the 100th object. .

I mean, really, The Economist? That is weaselling out of accurate consumer feedback isn’t it, if you state that users (the people who are going to sustain the businesses remember by purchasing the devices) don’t like the lanterns but hey, look, the British Museum likes it. Remember the design awards granted to the LifeStraw? Look at what happens to them:

 Carefully hidden away in case someone comes to check up on the beneficiaries of generous charity. When asked why it wasn’t in daily use, the response was that it was far too difficult and took too much time when it was easier to pour a 20 cent bottle of purifier into a bucket.

The article ends with a product that’s a concept developed in a studio. Who is hoping and how that this designer device will magically obtain a viable business plan with effective distribution and sales? The Economist might have been better off focusing on MKopa and Eight19’s efforts to experiment with new pay as you go business models, though I can already see their solution’s limitations particularly in the Kenyan market’s context. They could have talked about Econet Solar or Angaza or MeraGao in India, in the same vein of experimental business models instead of defaulting to the hopeful batteries and museum pieces that will grace the dusty shelves of retail outlets.

Btw, that SunKing you bought in an African supermarket? How many rural low income BoP customers shop there, do you know? 

What does it mean when Chinese manufacturers enter the social enterprise space?

“The market has been destroyed for solar” or so I heard today from someone who prefers to stay anonymous but I’d hazard a guess knows a fair bit about what is happening on the ground in East Africa from the point of view of social enterprises.

Interestingly, I’d brought up the question of whether “It was time to move on from the label “the BoP””, something I’ve been pondering over for quite some months now. And that was when the conversation had turned to the popular products for low income customers – improved cookstoves, solar lighting, agricultural equipment like water pumps and the like.

This will not be the definitive post or article on the topic – consider this an appetizer or rather, the beginning of the pondering on the weak signals seen in the market and what they might imply for social enterprises and their ilk, but also the larger “BoP” marketplace as a whole.

You see, what I’ve seen now in the market are branded China made products in categories that were only recently created by BoP focused social entrepreneurs and designers. The Chinese manufacturer has no other bottomline but that which makes a profit on a product for which they perceive a high volume demand. And witness the rise of the Tecnos and the Birds even as the category creator and erstwhile market leader Nokia battles for continued dominance in developing markets.

What does it mean when a Chinese brand enters what hitherto were considered “social impact” product categories? Are social entrepreneurs – many of whom are still supported through grants and funds, as they seek to improve the lives of the poor – prepared for an increasing competitive environment? Not just from other international social enterprises either but from purely commercial solutions?

What we also realized in today’s conversation was that it was the BoP focused social enterprises who were doing all the heavy lifting of market creation – experimenting with value propositions and product and services that people would want, creating awareness and demand while investing their time, effort and resources in ensuring the best outcome for all stakeholders. As was pointed out to me, it was the social enterprises who tended to ensure that they offered high quality, well designed, durable and reliable products to the ‘poor’, something that the competition is not known to do.

And so, it brought us to the sentence that started this post – “the market has been destroyed”. While its just one category at the moment, how soon before its all the others as the increasing purchasing power and aspirations of the informal economy seek the best bang for their rupee, kwacha or shilling?

Where are the appliances designed to be used with renewable energy sources?

LPG powered fridge for sale in Eastern Cape, South Africa

Almost 2 years ago in early 2010 I wrote about the opportunities for disruptive innovation in the emerging markets of the then developing world. One of the 5 case studies was that of the following concept:

Re-imagined household appliances
Refrigerators have come to the forefront of the news with the launch of Godrej’s Chotu Kool—a top loading unit co-created with their target audience in rural India, it does not require electricity and has one tenth the number of parts required in a conventional fridge. The refrigerator weighs only 7.8 kg, runs on a cooling chip and a fan similar to those used to cool computers. Chotukool consumes half the power consumed by regular refrigerators and uses high-end insulation to stay cool for hours without power while costing only Rs 3250 (USD 69). It is being distributed and marketed through partnerships with micro-finance institutions.

As this clay based precursor, the Rs 3000 (USD 55) Mitti Cool demonstrates, there have been a plethora of alternative solutions to the needs defined by basic household appliances. In the searing heat of the Indian summer, illnesses can be prevented by keeping milk and cooked food too cool to spoil. What Godrej has done however is taken the basic concept of low cost solutions and applied it to a mass market consumer good, to be marketed, branded and sold just like any other home appliance. Less moving parts imply ease of repair and maintenance, lower cost of ownership and possibilities for eco-innovations, a trend that could permeate the way appliances are currently designed and built for more profitable markets.

Where are these products now in the market and more importantly, where are other such home appliances?

Granted, the original concept was that of extreme affordability and these products were targetting the (still mythical) volumes in the BoP market – although in Godrej’s case it was simply common sense given the proportion of the Indian population who either lives off the grid or cannot afford the paraphernalia required for back up electric power when the inadequate systems cannot keep up with the demand.

Today however I was forcibly reminded of this product development direction when I came across the results of a significant study by Prof Arne Jacobsen of Humboldt State University that looked at rural Kenyan adoption of household solar power and the demand drivers that created this unsubsidized market. While there is much that is of interest in his dissertation, particularly the focus on the ‘connectivity’ aspects of rural demand, it was this observation that made me think about the untapped potential demand for a range of home appliances designed to suit the constraints of the majority of renewable home energy systems :

The average solar module size for a household system in Kenya is approximately 25 W, and the most common size is 14 W. Televisions, radios, and lights are the three main electrical appliances used with solar PV systems, while cellular telephone charging is a rapidly emerging use. Many appliances that are often used around the world in grid-connected homes, such as refrigerators, electric irons, and electric cookers, are generally not used with solar PV in Kenya. This is true because these appliances consume far more energy than the small solar modules that most Kenyan users can afford are able to produce. In other words, the quantity of electrical energy supplied by the solar PV systems used in Kenya is very small compared to the quantities that are generally available to grid-connected households, and this limits the range of possible uses.~ Jacobson, Arne (2007) “Connective Power: Solar Electrification and Social Change in Kenya,” World Development, v35, n1, pp. 148

While one can argue that this data is not only a decade old but focuses only on rural Kenya, I’d say that the basic insight would apply nonetheless wherever there is increasing uptake of modern energy sources among rural and/or lower income households. When one adds the potential number of households globally where utility companies are deploying prepaid electricity meters – The Philippines, many Sub Sahara African nations and of course the pioneer, South Africa – there seems to be implications for greater demand for products that would not only consume far less power than even the EU’s greening laws require but also track energy consumption in units of cash or energy simultaneously.

Current day EUP requirements are still designed with ubiquitous legacy infrastructure of the electric grid, not a wholly different system for sourcing, installation and purchase. In fact, I also wonder whether the fact that most of these household solar PV systems are slowly added over time in modular chunks (reflecting purchasing patterns of those on irregular or seasonal income streams) may not also play a part in influencing future product design?

There is a market opportunity here for manufacturers of consumer durables seeking to grow entirely new markets in the frontier regions of the global economy.

How do you compete in a market where charity distorts pricing?

Strategy guru Michael Porter’s 5 forces framework is quite well known to anyone attempting to assess or analyze the landscape of an operating environment for an industry or organization. Increasingly, since I’ve begun working out of Sub Sahara I’ve been sensing the challenge of a 6th force – one that is overlooked when consumer markets are considered particularly in the mass majority demographic. It is insidious however and hinders the sustainable practice of commerce. It is the dominant logic of charity and aid which leads to free give aways by so many seeking to help a poor African out.

Lets take the example of solar power as given in this recent BBC article:

The end result is DIY solar kits that can recharge phones and batteries. They look makeshift but they have the potential to make a huge difference to people thousands of miles away in Kenya.

As the director of KnowYourPlanet, Mark Kragh’s day job is to resell solar panels to small businesses and hobbyists. But in February he will travel to Kenya to distribute specially-made kits he is giving away as charity, and to show local people how to make more.

What if someone decided to give away solar panels for free to the small businesses and hobbyists who make up Mr Kragh’s customer base? How do you suppose that generous act of charity would impact his business?

Similarly, whether its the jua kali inventor/maker customizing solar power installations for each of his clients or the many social enterprise ventures that dot the landscape, each in their own way are trying to earn a living even while the work that they do helps improve the quality of life for their customers.

On one hand we talk about growing sustainable businesses and nurturing entrepreneurs as a critical means of social and economic development – ‘development through enterprise‘ we say- yet on the other, these very same fledgling ventures will be blindsided by a market force that has the power to distort pricing and disable competition.

Where will the support come from for these companies to establish and grow marketing channels, distribution networks and a win win profitable solution for all stakeholders? The majority are local establishments who employ local people and thus add value to their communities.

Well meaning enthusiasts who come in with hand outs are going to have the same effect on the market as any competitor who practices ‘dumping’ – it will undercut the market and cripple any sales or marketing strategy if the alternate to purchasing a local product in a shop is a free giveaway from a charitable individual or organization. Furthermore, they are not a business to provide any after sales service or maintenance or customer support, their goal is to be in and out having done ‘good’ during a flying visit.But the aftermath will create enough ripples in the market creation process that companies will have to deal with for a long time afterwards.

Interestingly, Mr Kragh intends to visit Kenya – one of Sub Sahara’s most mature solar power markets instead of Senegal where he’d originally gotten his inspiration from. If I was part of the solar mobile charger and lantern manufacturers association in Kenya or even Nakumatt or the electrical supply shop cooperative or whichever relevant body, I’d say they should petition to put a stop to activities of this sort or send them along to a location who needs it more than they. After all, it is the season of giving rather than receiving and one must always help one’s neighbours.