Businesses are vital to development, creating a growing local economy; providing jobs and wages as well as providing goods and services to the local rural population. A healthy and growing rural population decreases urban migration, thus relieving the pressure on the national grid and other services in cities, decreasing congestion; pollution and the growth of shanty towns.
Africa Power partners with specialist companies and organisations to provide complete business solutions (in standardised sizes) to such enterprises, including the power system, end-use equipment (to make productive use of the power), training and support. The package may include the option to source relevant high quality business inputs (seed, fertilizer; raw materials etc) to create the greatest profit margin from the powered equipment.
Consistent and reliable power is vital to any business and the unreliability of the grid is a major drag on African businesses. We have a proven ability to provide over 99.9% availability of power to our customers. (African grids struggle to reach 95% availability and major rolling blackouts are commonplace. In some cases these blackouts can destroy an entire production batch or wipe out precious stocks.)
micro enterprises boom with clean power availability
In temperate climates, hens increase their rate of egg-laying in summer and decrease in winter. Increased egg-laying is, however, triggered by longer day-light hours and NOT by temperature, with a 30% increase in egg production occurring when tropical 12 hour days are extended by 4 hours using artificial lights. Studies in South Africa have shown that a 30% increase in egg production increases the profitability of small-holder poultry keeping by 50%.
Eggs are a good source of protein for households on the margins of malnutrition and hens can be reared by individual households. It has been shown that the provision of a meal at lunchtime, increases school attendance as well as an improved ability to learn. Some schools have small land plots to grow food for a lunchtime meal, and hen keeping is a natural extension of this, bringing added protein to the diet. The land is tended by the children as part of their (agricultural) education and training.
Solar panels connected to batteries are used to power high efficiency fluorescent or LED bulbs in hen houses. Typically a 400-500 lumens light bulb (a 40-50 Watt old-fashioned, inefficient, incandescent light bulb), which takes 8-10 watts as a modern energy saving bulb or 3-5 Watts as a high efficiency LED cluster. A solar panel will produce about 4 hours of peak power rating (after allowing for battery charging/discharging losses), so a 3-6 Watt solar panel is needed for each bulb, which in turn can light a hen house with 10-20 birds.
Setting up of cell phone charging businesses, which charge the handsets from larger solar panels for a small fee (typically €0.20) is a great example of a micro enterprise directly resulting from the provision of power. Studies have shown that the provision of cell phone charging facilities in the villages increases mobile phone use by 20%, improving the rate of return for the cell phone operator, and further increasing the penetration of mobile communications.
Cell phones allow the small-holder farmer to access information including determining the prices at the local market and thus deciding when and which market to attend as these may be 3-5 day’s walk, sourcing lower costs on seed, fertilizer, and implements; access to weather forecast; and accessing agricultural advice. Mobile banking allows farmers to securely transmit and receive payment and to save money remotely, providing most banking services (see for example M-Pesa in Kenya) without needing to access a bank.