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Uganda - Africa

Lighting up Uganda

In Sub-Saharan Africa the percentage of people who do not have access to electricity is greater than any other continent. Less than 20% of Ugandans have access to electricity. BESTSELLER FOUNDATION and M-KOPA Solar have joined forces to change that – one household at a time.

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As annoying as it may seem when your phone runs out of battery then there’s usually always a plug nearby. Not so if you live in rural Uganda. You might have to walk to the next village and pay to recharge at a small thatched hut with a tiny generator that produces electricity – subject to availability of fuel of course. As night falls – usually around 6 PM around equator –business activity comes to a halt and children cannot do their homework. Kerosene lamps and small fire places may provide some respite – but kerosene is expensive, cutting trees for fire wood causes deforestation and the smoke from fires and kerosene lamps puts the health of everyone in the household at risk.

 Kerosene is expensive, cutting trees for fire wood causes deforestation and the smoke from fires and kerosene lamps puts the health of everyone in the household at risk. 

Sun replaces kerosene
But there is one source of electricity that is plentiful, essentially free of charge, clean and readily available in East Africa – the sun. And M-KOPA Solar offers a way for Ugandans, Kenyans and Tanzanians to harness the energy from the sun – and use it at home. The system that M-KOPA sells has solar panels, two LED light bulbs, a LED torch, a phone charger and a radio – and a solar powered TV set is about to be available too. It is designed to fit the needs and the wallets of rural Ugandans, Tanzanians and Kenyans. BESTSELLER FOUNDATION – through the fundraising initiative GIVE-A-DAY – has funded the purchase of 8,300 solar systems which are being sold across the three East African countries.  

LED bulbs light the way
Florence Nalubwama from Mabuye-Mpigi, some three hours from Uganda’s capital Kampala, has bought a solar power system. She is a single mother of three and she runs a small shop from her house. She used to be able to keep her shop open until 8 PM with the aid of a kerosene lamp – now she’s got three LED bulbs and free solar energy and stays open until 11 PM, she says. Not only are the longer hours good for business – it’s also cheaper to pay the installments on the system than it was to buy kerosene.  Florence used to spend roughly 1 USD per day to keep two kerosene lamps going. Now she pays 0.45 USD per day for the solar power system. And after a year she owns it and will pay nothing. She can leave the children in the main house with the lights on so they can concentrate on their homework instead of all squeezing into Florence’s little thatched shop under a kerosene lamp.

 Now the energy they use comes shining down from above. 

Health improvements from solar power
In the same area lives Deborah Jira with her husband John. At their house they have also been using kerosene lamps at night - and they had to walk for several kilometers to get kerosene. But not since they bought a solar power system. Now the energy they use comes shining down from above.
Deborah enjoys being able to listen to the radio without having to buy batteries as well as having light at night without having to start a fire or a kerosene lamp. While they still depended on kerosene lamps Deborah had a cough she couldn’t get rid of, red eyes and a rash. A local doctor confirmed that the fumes and smoke were the cause of her problems – but it is only now that they are using solar power that her health is improving, she says.

 The 35,000 solar power systems will benefit as many as 170,000 people who never had access to electricity before. 

Power to the people
The solar power systems come with a two year warranty and the solar batteries have an expected lifespan of four years. Customers pay for 12 months before they own it – but already after nine months M-KOPA can purchase a new system and put in on the market. For the duration of the collaboration between BESTSELLER FOUNDATION and M-KOPA all of the proceeds from the installment plans made for the initial systems will be used to make new systems available to new customers – and for penetrating new markets.

As more systems are made available they will be used to accelerate the geographic expansion in Uganda and Tanzania in particular where the systems have only recently been made available. At the end of the collaboration it is estimated that more than 35,000 solar power systems will have been installed in rural East African homes – benefiting as many as 170,000 people who never had access to electricity before.

Uganda - Africa

Uganda is a landlocked country in Eastern Africa.

It is bordered by Kenya to the east, to the north by South Sudan, to the west by the Dem. Republic of  Congo, to the southwest by Rwanda, and to the south by Tanzania.

The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania, situating the country in the African Great Lakes region. 

The official languages are Swahili and English. Luganda is also widely spoken across the country.