Design Expo 2014: Online Discussion - Access to Energy

This online panel discussion at 3.30 UK time on Monday 9 June will explore the following questions:

  1. What are the emerging technologies that have the potenital to transform access to energy in the future?
  2. What pricing and distribution approaches seem to be working in expanding the poor's access to energy?
  3. What should governments do to help drive access to energy, including for women and children?

Panelists include: Liz Grubin, Impact Carbon; Vincenzo Capogna, Sunny Money (Solar Aid); Sheila Oparaocha, Energia; Davinia Cogan, GVEP International; Gaurav Mehta, Dharma Life.

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This event is part of the Business Fights Poverty Design Expo 2014. Running from 9 to 13 June,  the Design Expo is an online celebration of products, services and business models transforming the lives of poor people.  The Design Expo is a collaboration with iDE UK and is being supported by the UK's Department for International Development.

The Expo will include a vibrant mix of blogs, Google Hangouts, online panel discussions, a Twitter Jam and a virtual exhibition zone. Each day we will focus on a different sector: Energy (9 June), Health (10 June), Communications (11 June), Livelihoods (including enterprise, finance and agriculture) (12 June) and Water & Sanitation (13 June).

From Monday 9 June, you will be able to access all the activities via the Design Expo landing page,  Participation in the Design Expo is free.  You will simply need to sign in (or sign up for free) to Business Fights Poverty.


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Models that utilise existing networks via FMCG companies, like Coca-cola, and mobile network operators seem to be the future of distribution. Tapping into existing transport infrastructure, such as public bus networks can also be effective. Keeping the context in mind and being adaptable is crucial.

Hi Davinia - yes I came across that case recently.   Really fascinating. If anyone would like to learn more, here is their web address:

We create local village level entrepreneurs who promote the products and drive behaviour change in the community.

Thanks Gaurav, very interesting.  Do you have an idea of how to reach the other 90% of customers not addressed by MFIs?  

Gaurav - can you share some more detail? How do you find the entrepreneurs and what sort of support do you give them?

PRICING: Reducing the upfront cost of the product. For example: Unilever mini-doses of soap or the payments in installments of the PAYG solar lights. 

DISTRIBUTION: leveraging existing networks and local trusted salesmen in order to reach a large customer base without the need to set-up an expensive distribution network and to introduce more easily innovative solutions. for example: sunnymoney school campaign leverages the school network to promote solar lamps or  PAYG solutions leverage mobile-money to easily and cheaply collect payments.

The company is called BBOXX. From what I understand about how they operate they manufacture their products in China and distrubute them through local partners around Africa.

The markets they've entered are dependent on getting the right partner - and they've also not been afraid to go into conflict areas which has lead to them being market leaders in some locations.

To sum up - they've had to really invest in their whole supply chain; from the local shops which are not further than 25km to their clients, to the financing systems and remote monitoring of their panels to their manufacturer in China.

We engage with local NGOs and key opinion leaders to provide us leads, then run a formal selection process. Post selection we provide mentoring and ongoing support to each entrepreneurs, we have now reached more than 2000 local entrepreneurs with this model

The energy technology that has the most potential to immediately improve human health and well-being in many developing countries is relatively simple. It is the improved cooking stove would dramatically reduce the exposure to unhealthy levels of particulate pollution in many developing countries, particularly among women and children. Other sectors that offer great opportunities to reduce conventional levels of air pollutant emissions and to improve public health are transport and electricity production.

On the pricing side, payments in installments is crucial to affordability.

how important are things like training, leaving products for people to test, women vs. men in the marketing process, performance assurances etc in helping people make the purchase decision thereby increasing access?

Extremely important, without an after sales commitment and some sort of trial process in the community it is very difficult to initiate the sales process.

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