Refugee shelters need sustainable solar solutions
Uganda is home to 1.5 million refugees from the neighbouring countries of South Sudan, Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Somalia. As they have no access to clean energy, they rely on forms of energy that are harmful to health and the environment, such as candles, kerosene and disposable batteries, which are also very expensive. Several humanitarian actors are trying to solve this problem by distributing solar products for free. However, this is expensive, not very sustainable, and not nearly enough for everyone, as it is not financially feasible.
Therefore, the ZOA project aims to convince refugees and their host communities to self- finance solar installations through various incentive schemes.
ZOA is a non-profit, Christian-based emergency relief organisation based in the Netherlands that has been working in Africa since 2018. As the lead project sponsor, ZOA will enter into a cooperation agreement with solar companies operating in the region to participate in the development of the solar market.
The project combines supply- and demand-oriented measures. The project partners want to organise access to the customers in the refugee accommodations via the 330 savings communities established there. ZOA informs them about the advantages of owning their own solar systems and payment options such as pay as you go or other credit-based financing on the market; the savings communities can take on a kind of trustee role for the individual savers. They also connect solar providers with savings communities.
Another focus is the development of a market for solar installations. To this end, the project recruits small shopkeepers and retailers as intermediaries between solar companies and savings communities. Through training, they are to gain a basic understanding of the technology and thus generate community interest in solar products in the medium term.
In addition, the project trains youth with prior technical experience so that they can also provide repair services for the acquired solar systems.
Currently, many solar companies have their sales outlets in regional cities and commercial centres. This prevents them from reaching people living in remote villages. ZOA therefore wants to encourage companies and other vendors to invest in delivering solar products to members of savings groups in remote areas. The companies should invest in sales outlets that are closer to the villages and are the last mile for delivering solar products to savings groups.