Growing rural sub-Saharan economies through accelerating clean energy uptake

“Real breakthrough in boosting demand for renewable energy to create sustainable jobs and reduce poverty”

NINE PIONEERING AFRICAN BUSINESSES are set to markedly grow their positive impact on sub-Saharan Africa communities by stimulating clean energy uptake and, in doing so, growing local economies and empowering women.     

This is thanks to the innovation of the businesses themselves, and support provided through the latest round of PREO (Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities) grant funding.

PREO is a multi-million Euro productive use of energy (PUE) programme co-funded by the IKEA Foundation and UK aid, and delivered by Carbon Trust and Energy 4 Impact. PREO recognises that while increased energy access is vital to improve livelihoods in rural Africa, this alone is not enough to transform economies. So PREO aims to boost demand for clean energy as a way of creating sustainable jobs, growing economies, reducing poverty and empowering women.

In the next 24 months PREO will provide the nine businesses with €1.36m to pilot new approaches or expand their existing business models. Learnings will be widely shared to unlock PUE opportunities in the region.  

Says Jon Lane, Head of Energy Access at the Carbon Trust that manages PREO: “The projects demonstrate real breakthrough in boosting demand for renewable energy to create sustainable jobs and reduce poverty through economic growth. PREO funding will help accelerate the scale up of these business models, enabling them to do even more for socio-economic advancement locally.”

The nine successful businesses were selected from a pool of 233 applicants, indicating a strong and extremely encouraging trend toward clean energy use in the region, Jon Lane says. Previous PREO grants have been awarded to businesses active in sectors such as transport, health care and education. In this latest round most of the businesses are part of the agricultural value chain, so the PREO grants are assisting the sub-Saharan agriculture sector realise its full potential.

All grant recipients will undertake research to evaluate the overall socio-economic and environmental impacts of the funded projects, and best practice findings will be shared on the PREO knowledge hub.

The nine PREO grant recipients are:

FRES is setting up a solar powered agro-processing platform to power the Sowdjoma shea butter cooperative that serves hundreds of women farmers in Burkina Faso. The farmers will benefit from the fee-for-service energy supply, giving them access to sustainable energy to increase production efficiency, develop innovative agricultural practices and invest in equipment. Ownership of the agro-processing equipment will be transferred to the cooperative farmers via a rent-to-buy scheme.

ClearSky Power is boosting farmer livelihoods in Somaliland through innovative irrigation technology. A photovoltaic powered drip irrigation system will be available to local farmers through a lending scheme. The PREO funded pilot project will reveal how energy savings impact productivity, water use and crop diversification and provide useful insights for the successful roll-out of the business model to more farmers.

A Congolese coffee producer and distributor, Café Kivu is growing its operations by investing in clean energy and by empowering local entrepreneurs. Solar-hybrid bean roasting technology will boost production at Café Kivu. Distribution will be expanded through a franchise licensing and asset loan system, providing local entrepreneurs with mobile coffee carts that will take the brand into the heart of urban centres. In time, Café Kivu will grow its business into US, Middle East, and Asian markets.  

KOOLBOKS is pioneering a sustainable cold storage model that enhances the resilience of female fish traders in the coastal city of Lagos, Nigeria. The system provides off-grid solar refrigerators (together with LED lighting and USB ports) that are made available through microcredit loans and pay-as-you-go financing. It’s a clean alternative to diesel generators and ice blocks. Koolboks also reduces spoilage and improves profitability.

Solar home system distributor PEG Africa is partnering with water pump manufacturers to distribute solar pumps to Senagalese vegetable, millet and groundnut farmers at a pay as you go price point. With PREO grant support, PEG will grow its supply chain, distribution and after sales network and so give the farmers clean, accessible technology for optimal productivity.

Bodawerk is piloting Agr E-Hub, a new generation energy system that powers new mechanisation opportunities for Ugandan farmers, who continue to rely on manual labour due to the unaffordability of agricultural machinery. Agr E-Hub is a low-cost, multi-purpose tractor, powered by Li-ion battery packs charged through a mini-grid and made available via a pay as you go scheme. This system will spread the mechanisation of tilling, ploughing, threshing, milling and transporting. It will boost both yield and crop value and will offer fresh development prospects for farmers.

Off-grid electrification project REPARLE (Renewable Energy Powering Agriculture and Rural Livelihood Enhancement) will sustainably scale the circular economy model in refugee and host smallholder farming communities in northern Uganda. The company will buy agricultural waste (that’s usually burned) and turn it into clean cooking fuel and displace carbon-based fuels that degrade the environment and harm health. It will also support farming agri-processing activities by providing mini-grid connections, electric vehicles for transporting goods and advanced crop management techniques.

Practical Action Consulting will empower women smallholder farmers in rural northern Malawi by developing a sustainable, vertically-integrated business model for their crops. In partnership with African Mini-Grids (AMG) and Modern Farming Technologies (MFT), this pilot programme will upskill women farmers by providing a solar drip irrigation system for greenhouses and for solar refrigeration. It will also facilitate sales to boost income from farming.

Uganda-based Zembo Motorcycles is planning to demonstrate the technical and financial viability of battery swap solar stations for electric motorcycles (e-motorcycles). Right now, Zembo has six stations in Kampala that service 40 e-motorcycles. The intention is to grow into remote and peri-urban rural areas. Extending its network by 120km along the Masaka Road, Zembo will provide the first corridor of solar-powered, off-grid battery recharging stations in Africa.

Subscribe to our newsletter to hear about these projects and future announcements on more grant recipients.