Kenya - Patnership to bring solar energy to the last mile
In parallel with its solar lamps program, Total has further committed to access to solar energy by taking part in an innovative project with SolarKiosk. Rachna Patel, managing director of SolarKiosk Kenya, explains how rural and peri-urban areas will benefit.
Total and Solarkiosk share an ambition to provide solar-powered products and services to residents of low-connectivity or off-grid rural and peri-urban areas. Berlin-based Solarkiosk, a for-profit enterprise which now has 18 employees in Nairobi, launched in Kenya in November 2012 to sell, from a solar-powered kiosk, consumer goods such as sugar, flour, milk and bread. These attract the customer and sustain the business. But before concluding a sale, we introduce them to high quality portable solar lanterns and Solar Home Systems* and tell them about our solar services available for a small fee: a refrigerator where the local clinic or residents can stock vaccines, a place to charge phones or make a photocopy and, as all our kiosks are fitted with a TV screen, the possibility of watching a film or a football match. In this way we are not only enabling access to products and services that were previously inaccessible but also creating a social hub. Going a step further, the kiosk can power up telecom towers, power mini-grids and provide solar connectivity to other businesses and institutions.
* Two watts solar panel with one 85 lumens bulb; 6 watts solar panel with four such bulbs.
A partnership was natural and complimentary to the shared ambition of Total and Solarkiosk: bringing access to solar connectivity to those who’ve never had accessto electricity.
Recruiting the right people
Our kiosk operators must have basic maths and literacy so we can train them in keeping an inventory using a scanner, calculating sales and profits or maintaining a cash flow. They are paid on commission: lower for consumer goods and much higher for solar systems. We think Total’s experience in Africa and willingness to invest in innovative projects will help Solarkiosk not only with our recruitment but also with establishing a sales strategy, securing better deals on bulk purchasing of consumer goods, supporting distribution and establishing local stakeholder partnerships. For our part we promote TOTAL products, including the Awango solar lamps, at our kiosks. The pilot is very promising and has already enabled the teams to share experience and skills.