The needs in Nigeria are great, and these needs constitute the opportunity we have to make a difference in people’s lives. Allwell Nwankwo, Program Manager, Lighting Africa – Nigeria
The Lighting Africa – Nigeria program was launched in March 2015 to increase access to better, cleaner and safer off-grid lighting and energy products to the rural and peri-urban populations with no access to the grid. Our key objectives are to help six million people gain access to clean, modern, affordable lighting products, while avoiding 120,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
To achieve these goals, we work in collaboration with manufacturers, distributors, retailers, financial institutions, government agencies, consumers and other stakeholders to develop markets and tackle the barriers to the adoption of cleaner energy sources among the base-of-the-pyramid (BoP) population.
We carry out consumer education campaigns in Nigeria using a combination of road shows, market storms, radio advertising and product presentation forums to increase awareness of solar lanterns and solar home systems (SHS). As of January 2015, over 14 million people across six states had been exposed to our campaigns.
Additionally, pilot projects were carried out to increase awareness through schools and health care centers, in cooperation with ENERCAP and the Nigerian State Health Investment Project, respectively. Through these projects, lanterns were provided to community influencers such as teachers and midwives – who were both in need of the lanterns and would serve to introduce them to the wider population, thereby driving demand.
With increased awareness comes increased demand – yet impediments to access remain. Lighting Africa is working to address issues including distribution and financing bottlenecks.
BoP consumers typically spend more on the lifecycle cost of their current lighting sources (due to recurring fuel expenditures) than what they would spend on average for a solar lantern. Yet they often find it difficult to shoulder the initial upfront costs, which hampers their ability to switch to cleaner energy sources. To address this constraint, we are collaborating with five microfinance banks in Nigeria, offering basic knowledge training on products meeting our standards to MFI employees, who in turn introduce the products to their customers. This enables the MFIs to provide microloans to their customers to purchase solar lanterns. Retailers and distributors also face financing challenges and can benefit from these loans.
A robust distribution channel that reaches rural consumers is also lacking. Thus, we have set up a retail channel development program to expand the distribution footprint of solar lanterns and SHS by training retailers in different areas of Nigeria. We also support these private sector actors by creating business-to-business linkages through events connecting manufacturers with distributors, and distributors with retailers.
Expanding across the country
Nigeria is a big country with 36 states. We plan to carry out market development work in 20 states of these States, using a combination of consumer education activities, retail channel development and consumer access to finance.
The Lighting Africa Program in Nigeria has taken off on a good note. We hope to scale-up and replicate the success Lighting Africa has achieved in East Africa, especially Kenya. Allwell Nwankwo, Program Manager, Lighting Africa – Nigeria