Scaling up solar energy
Over 90% of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are not connected to the electricity grid, while the few who are – mostly in urban areas – experience an average of 17 blackouts per month. As a result, people turn to devices such as kerosene lamps, candles and diesel or petrol generators for lighting and to charge their mobile phones. These dirty, expensive and unsafe sources of energy reduce people’s incomes, worsen health, interfere with learning and productivity and degrade the environment. The country’s poor infrastructure, unfavorable clean energy regulations and longtime political and economic instability perpetuate this status quo.
The founders of Altech Group, the DRC’s largest distributor of solar products, grew up and continue to live in low-income, underserved areas of the country. This has given them not only firsthand experience of these problems but also the inspiration to find the right clean energy technologies and payment solutions for this market.
Altech offers customers a variety of solar products, notably a high-quality certified solar kit called ovPilot X, for about USD 35. The kits are made affordable through three pay-as-you-go (PAYG) payment plans. Two of the plans target people with daily income inflows, such as small shop owners, and require a small or no down payment. The third plan, which requires a larger down payment of USD 10, targets people with monthly or seasonal incomes, such as teachers. Altech has also started piloting the sale of solar home systems and clean cookstoves.
Customers who stick to the payment terms will own their solar kit within one or two months at most. They also receive training in proper kit usage and a two-year after-sales service guarantee.
Altech’s sales strategy is based on the recruitment of talented, trustworthy and ambitious local youths as solar ambassadors. Altech equips them with the necessary skills and tools to promote, sell, collect payment and service the product. Ambassadors are supervised by area sales managers and paid a 10% sales commission.
IMPACT ACHIEVED SO FAR?
To date, Altech has sold about 20 000 PAYG solar kits, 120 000 solar lanterns, 500 solar home systems and 1 000 clean cookstoves, improving the income, education and health of over 500 000 people. It has reached 7 200 schools and 200 000 school-aged children and offset hundreds of tonnes of smoke and CO2 emissions.