In Uganda, approximately 85% of the population lacks access to electricity, and 98% lack access to modern fuels for cooking. Simple and affordable technologies have already been developed to solve these problems, with high quality, low-cost solar lights, water filters, briquettes, and improved cookstoves being manufactured and distributed in developing countries. But they aren’t reaching rural areas, the so-called “last mile,” as these areas lack sophisticated supply chains and delivery systems. Energy suppliers are thus forced to utilize vertical integration models, as they cannot find reliable distributors in rural areas to wholesale volume and turnover stock.
New Energy Nexus ENVenture, a program of New Energy Nexus Uganda, is a social enterprise that empowers rural distributors to learn business skills and receive financing to launch sustainable, clean energy enterprises.
In developing countries, there also exist thousands of self-organized Community Based Organizations (CBOs) which are non-profit cooperatives that solve local problems in absence of government services. These organizations have an intimate grassroots relationship with their communities, are staffed and managed by local people, and are based in the center of the rural communities, serving as the ‘last mile’.
They understand the energy problems well and want to distribute essential clean energy technologies in their communities. As highly influential experts at local advocacy, CBOs demonstrate a trusted network for clean energy product distribution. Distributors receive a low-cost loan and a one-on-one business coach, taking a “Business in a Box” toolkit from idea to execution, while systemic interventions in the last mile help to negate an over-reliance on unsustainable tree biomass used for cooking (firewood) and lighting (kerosene), both of which have negative public health impacts.
108 of the 20,000 cooperatives in the country have received this package of support in launching enterprises that build supply chains and create new jobs. The Ugandan program is empowering rural cooperatives with a seed business toolkit comprising affordable clean energy loans and training to launch enterprises that sell household cleantech such as solar power and clean cookstoves.
An expansion of this program will bolster the microfinance vehicle by onboarding more diverse last-mile entrepreneurs through the accelerator program, which will support many energy-poor communities in Uganda by lifting people living on less than $3 a day out of fossil fuel reliance..