Few Ugandans have access to electricity. And for those who do, it is seldom reliable. In order to compensate for power cuts, many households, micro-entrepreneurs and businesses depend on solar power they collect through independent systems. However, the Ugandan market for solar technology solutions is often dominated by international companies because local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) lack access to high-quality products, loans, and other structures to expand and remain competitive. To overcome these challenges, five Ugandan solar companies have founded the “Solar Entrepreneurs Network for Decentralized Energy Access Uganda” (Sendea UG).
Sendea UG aims to empower Ugandan SMEs to provide sustainable off-grid solutions for Ugandan households, small businesses, farmers and institutions, to create sustainable local employment opportunities, and to close the financing gap for the Ugandan solar sector. To this end, the cooperative intends to exchange ideas with civil society organisations, municipalities, companies and other stakeholders. It is open to other members, provided that: their majority is Ugandan owned; they sell solar technologies; and commit to the Sendea standards.
Sendea UG is a grassroots organisation. The network was founded by five solar entrepreneurs: Joseph Wanume (Access 2 Energy Ltd), Frank N. Yiga (Anuel Energy Ltd), Juliet Gibbs (New Cares Ltd), Ssenkindu Tapson (Sostap Ltd), and Esther Katete and Loy Kyozaire (SunTap Ltd). Sendea UG is closely associated with the German Stiftung Solarenergie (Solar Energy Foundation) based in Freiburg. The latter provides support for international networking and other processes.
In order to better position the Ugandan solar industry for domestic competition with international companies, Sendea UG is focusing on four areas: promoting the exchange of experience between the management of members, who are solar companies; establishing a Sendea Academy that offers training courses on technology, sales, financing and management; acting as a broker for loans to its members; and acquiring orders from international aid organisations that need support for their solar projects.