Case Studies

In this section we provide a few examples of successful energy sector social enterprises that operate in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), including links to their Energy Map profiles.

Solar Sister is an enterprise operating in Uganda that empowers women and communities by enabling them to become entrepreneurs who sell affordable solar energy technologies.  Solar Sister combines an Avon-style direct marketing network with high quality lighting products from manufacturers such as d.light, Angaza Design, and Barefoot Power to change the lives of East Africans at the base of the pyramid (BoP).

Eco-Fuel Africa, another Ugandan enterprise, converts agricultural waste into fertilizer and clean cooking fuel through the usage of carbonization kilns.  Kilns are made from recycled oil drums and given to farmers on a lease-to-own basis.  The charcoal briquettes and biochar fertilizer the kilns produce help both increase crop yields and provide a cheap, accessible, and cleaner energy source.

ToughStuff is an enterprise based in Mauritius that has developed modular, solar-powered lights, radios, and phone chargers that are sold through a microfranchising network.  Their primary product is their solar lighting kit, which comes with a “Superbright” LED lamp and a solar panel.  Accessory products such as battery packs, mobile phone chargers, and radios are sold separately.  ToughStuff has been wildly successful because its products are affordable and because it has implemented effective marketing techniques that are locally tailored.

SMEFUNDS is an NGO that is based in and operates in Nigeria.  It runs a number of for-profit and non-profit ventures.  Its two largest businesses are Green Energy and Biofuels and Kike Green Cook, which work together to deliver improved cookstoves and clean burning, renewable ethanol chafing fuel to Nigerians.  Their chafing fuel is made from sawdust and the invasive water hyacinth.

WE CARE Solar is a nonprofit headquartered in Berkeley, California that provides solar power kits to fulfill medical lighting and communication needs.  Their kits, called Solar Suitcases, have been distributed to over 110 healthcare facilities in SSA, Haiti, and Southeast Asia.  Their Solar Suitcase’s design is focused on maternal care, which is a huge unmet need in SSA.

Emerging Cooking Solutions is a Sweden-based enterprise that operates in Zambia.  They sell clean-burning cookstoves that are fueled by biomass pellets that are manufactured locally from sawdust.  The feedstock comes from commercially produced tree species such as eucalyptus and pine rather than logged forest.  They sell to both the mass market and to local businesses, and use a payroll financing scheme to help the BoP pay for their stoves.

Wisdom Stoves is a nonprofit based in Vermont, USA that manufactures improved gasification cookstoves in Kenya.  Their stoves are designed to be used with or without the traditional Kenyan jiko cookstove and use gasification technology to eliminate particulate matter and gaseous indoor air pollutants.  The stoves also produce charcoal and biochar which can be used as cooking fuel or organic fertilizer.

Mobah Rural Horizons is a Nigeria-based nonprofit that sells a portable refrigerator that uses evaporative cooling to keep food fresh for weeks.  It addresses an unmet need for refrigeration in SSA and saves families money by reducing produce spoilage.



Next Section: Key Recommendations for Social Enterprises