The solar lantern market in Kenya grew by over 200% between 2009 – 2013
Through Lighting Kenya I (2009-2013) we conducted numerous consumer education campaigns to drive demand, and provided support to the private sector seeking to enter the market. These activities led to a vibrant private sector with over 1,500 SMEs currently selling solar lanterns in Kenya. The up-take of solar lighting increased fourfold during this period to about 8% in 2013, with the solar lantern market growing by over 200%. Families living off-grid in rural Kenya bought over 700,000 solar lanterns.
Our current activities in Kenya build on that progress, aiming to reach the most rural populations and develop partnerships with microfinance institutions.
Lighting Kenya I: Building a vibrant market
Lighting Africa I enabled the Kenyan solar market to develop into one of the most attractive in Africa. Firstly, we conducted market intelligence studies that the private sector requested, demonstrating the vast opportunities in this market. We offered business development services to companies entering the market to help them develop and fine-tune their business models, sales and marketing strategies, as well as their product distribution networks. These outreach activities and events forged links between manufacturers, distributors and bulk buyers.
To ensure the stability of the market, we followed-up by identifying and training technicians across Kenya, who were then connected with product manufacturers and distributors to provide after-sales maintenance support. Further activities have included research into the role of women both as consumers and potential distributors of solar lights.
Bringing about a transition from kerosene to cleaner, safer off-grid lighting systems requires knowledge among consumers on how these products operate, where they can be found and their costs and benefits.
We have undertaken extensive consumer education campaigns, staged hundreds of road shows, led product discussion forums, and conducted radio campaigns to build consumer awareness across the country. The common message has been to highlight the advantages of quality-verified, clean lighting products over polluting kerosene lamps.
Tapping into mass media has helped to reach a wide audience. This has been achieved through embedding quality-verified solar products into TV programs, such as the hit Makutano Junction, radio talk shows discussing the benefits of solar products, and a Christmas campaign that targeted urban and peri-urban consumers with print and TV solar lighting product messages. This campaign, which had reached over 29 million Kenyans by July 2013, was awarded the Best Non-Governmental Marketing Campaign by the Marketing Society of Kenya in 2012, and is recognized as a global best practice.
Lighting Kenya II: Going the extra mile
Despite the successes achieved in the first phase of our program, far too many Kenyans still live without modern lighting and energy services, with a disproportionate number living in rural areas. There have been twin challenges to distribution: a lack of financing along the supply chain and difficulty reaching rural dwellers in the ‘last inch of the last mile’. The second phase of our program, Lighting Kenya II, set out to address these issues by partnering with microfinance institutions (MFIs) and involving women’s and youth groups as last-mile distributors.
Access to finance is critical for many consumers, who would otherwise be unable to meet upfront costs. Repayments are typically no more than recurring fuel costs for kerosene lamps and once paid, products require no additional expenditure – resulting in savings in the long run. Product reliability is also essential to avoid potential defaults on repayments. That is why only products meeting Lighting Global Quality Standards are eligible for financing through MFI partners.
Lighting Africa typically offers MFIs support in making business linkages, driving consumer awareness or training local technicians to provide after-sales support. National MFIs provide broad network coverage across Kenya, while the regional MFIs give depth into rural markets. All MFIs are also encouraged to provide financing to women’s groups and other last-mile distributors.
Although the market for clean, modern off-grid lighting products continues to grow in rural Kenya, uptake in the northern counties and other hard to reach areas is lagging behind. In response, we are currently working with the Kenyan government to develop the off-grid solar market in these areas. The focus is on providing off-grid solar solutions to households and the public institutions. In addition, we are working with other partners like MFIs and last mile distributors/entrepreneurs to reach more remote consumers.