On the ground impact in Malawi
EEP Africa Portfolio Coordinator Chiedza Mazaiwana visited five portfolio companies in Malawi during May 2021. The site visits demonstrated the substantial impact happening on the ground as a result of EEP Africa financing
Malawi faces significant energy poverty, with only 11% of the population having access to electricity, which disproportionately affects rural communities and young people. Increasing access to stable and affordable energy is critical for the country’s social and economic development, as well as its ability to become more climate resilient.
As always, spending time with projects on the ground reinforced our team’s commitment to supporting early-stage clean energy companies and helping them reach marginalized communities. Here are a few of the impact stories that Chiedza encountered during her visits.
Wala is a local, women-led start-up distributing solar-powered agricultural equipment. Wala is partnering with GIZ’s Farmer Business School to introduce solar technology to farmer cooperatives and with FINCOOP to provide access to asset financing. During the EEP site visit, Wala and FINCOOP conducted a demonstration of solar water pumps for the Lingadzi Horticulture Cooperative in Sosola village, Chiluwa E.P.A. The farmers currently use watering cans to irrigate their crops of maize, tomatoes, cabbage and soya beans. It can take up to 6 days to water one hectare of land, but solar water pumps could accomplish this task within one day. Two members of the cooperative commented on other benefits of the technology:
“I am very happy that the system is adapted to be disability friendly. This is very important to me because currently I am unable to water my crops as the only method available to do so in my area is watering cans which I cannot use.” – Tobias Mafukeni, a 42-year-old who uses crutches on both legs
“The pump and the hose pipe are very clean which will save us time. We can water our crops and go straight from the field to do other things. This is currently impossible with watering cans which make us very dirty.” – Agnes Kamkosi, aged 52
Yellow is a local start-up advancing last mile distribution of PAYG solar home systems through a network of sales agents. Their EEP-financed project is focused on increasing the number of female agents and promoting women’s role in energy access through digital inclusion and technology training. Named after the company’s first female agent, Project Khumbo is opening new opportunities for young women in Malawi. Chiedza spoke with Khumbo and another project ‘ambassador’ during the company’s Family Day. They shared the transformational impact Yellow has had on their lives:
“Now I also have a say in the home. I bring something to the table and we are working together as a team, my husband and I. Now if I suggest investing in something that I strongly believe will better our lives and he does not approve, I can go ahead with it because I have my own money and most of the time he praises me after seeing the results.” – Khumbo Chikwaliwali, 24 years old
“I saved my income from commissions and bonuses I received from Yellow. Yellow encourages us to save and has a savings scheme that really helped me start my own [beauty shop] business. I saved MWK 800,000 and bought stock (hair products, make-up, cosmetics and jewelry) from Zambia in April 2021. We are now in May and I have already had to order more stock!” – Hilda Banda, 23 years old
Solarworks! is a company selling PAYG solar home systems and appliances in Mozambique and Malawi. Although internationally owned, 95% of the company’s employees are from the countries of operation. Chiedza met one of SolarWorks! external agents, Cadeau Ndivunirwa, who came to Malawi in 2016 as a refugee from the DRC. Since joining SolarWorks! in September 2020, Cadeau has already earned $4,700 in commissions. After taking care of the needs of his family, including a wife, parents, 2 kids and 8 siblings, he used some of his earnings to set up a SolarWorks! kiosk in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp because the nearest shop is 28km away.
“Being an agent is a response to the community. Here at the camp, it is not easy to get Escom connections. Since Solarworks! came, it became easier to light up our homes at an affordable price. I opened the kiosk to help customers who cannot speak English or Chichewa but need assistance with their systems, or those who do not have phones but need to make payments, and just so there is a physical location where people can receive the service they need.” – Cadeau Ndivunirwa, 28 years old
Kumudzi Kuwale is a local social enterprise bringing rechargeable lamps to rural villages. Solar charging stations are set up in a centrally-located house and the homeowner operates the recharging on a commission basis. EEP visited a station in Khomera village, which is located in the hilly terrain of Ntcheu District with impassable roads and long distances to any business centres. The cost of buying a solar home system is beyond the reach of many households, but renting a solar torch is possible. One customer who came to rent a lamp while EEP was there shared the impact the product has had on her home:
“Before using this lamp, we used a lamp powered by dry grass. It produced low light and a lot of smoke, but with these lamps the room is brighter and no smoke in the house! I am able to study at night.” - Loveness Kamwendo, 12 years old
Green Impact Technologies (GIT) is a local start-up that is focused on deploying clean energy technologies to marginalized communities. GIT was just contracted by EEP Africa for a new project to establish a waste-to-energy hub at a vegetable market.
“We are excited to have EEP’s support. As a start-up it is not easy to secure funding, most investors have told us that we are too early stage, but EEP believed in our initiative. This funding will enable us to pilot and prove our concept, which will provide clean cooking solutions and distributed solar products to the last mile.” - Admore Chiumia, GIT founder and managing director
About EEP Africa
EEP Africa is a clean energy financing facility hosted and managed by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) with funding from Austria, Finland and NDF. It provides early stage grant and catalytic debt financing to innovative clean energy projects, technologies and business models in Southern and East Africa.