As early as 2008 ARTI began developing a project for low-cost solar guided by the belief that lighting is a basic need. We also understood that the up-front investment required to access any modern lighting devices is beyond the financial capacity of the average rural Tanzanian. The absence of reliable technical after sales service also deters the users from investing in the modern devices.
In 2010 ARTI Tanzania began implementation of the World Bank funded Lighting Rural Tanzania Project in partnership with the Rural Energy Agency (REA).
Within the 12 month duration of the project ARTI successfully demonstrated that solar energy powered lighting can be accessed by the low income rural population using the existing trade channel and its “Mali Kauli” (Mali = Good +Kauli = Word of Honour) credit system.
The project initially took place in Bagamoyo District of the Pwani region and was to include 4 District wholesalers. However, within 6 months of the project the number of wholesalers reached 14 in 2 Districts.
As of February 2012 the number of District wholesalers reached more than 20. In addition to the District wholesalers, numerous SACCOS, micro-finance institutions and other organizations starting selling lights to its members.
The project also proved that low cost solar also filled an important product range gap. Before the project the solar powered systems available in Tanzania were large, complex, inverter based, multi light systems priced between USD 450 – USD 2500 and on the other hand there were only available simple, single bulb, hand held lights priced between USD 10 – USD 50. There are were no options for multi light systems at affordable prices.
ARTI injected Barefoot 5 watt PowaPacks, 2.5w PowaPack Juniors and 1.5w Firefly Mobiles into rural markets using the existing and well established trade channels. The product was made accessible to rural Tanzanians through their village shop owner/retailer with whom they already have an informal credit understanding (“Mali Kauli”). The retailer had the advantage of knowing his customers repayment capacity and history. The Barefoot solar products proved proved to be highly accepted additional to product in his/her range of household durables.
Reaching the rural end users – The concept of extending solar products to the rural end users using the existing “Mali Kauli” system came about after a study of the trade system in Tanzania for the past 10 years at all levels. Although the method is informal, it is very efficient and effective from the at all levels of the channel. Presenting the solar systems to the targeted end users using their local retailer/s allows them to identify with the product and purchase it just as they purchase Galvanized Roofing Sheets, Cement, Bicycles and Seeds and fertilizers etc.
The “Mali Kauli” system has been working for many generations due to confidence, interdependence and the fear of denial of the next purchase. Using this system to inject renewable energy as a product rather than a technology is what was pioneered during this project.
The primary beneficiaries of the project are the low income population and 10 youth trained and equipped as service technicians from the Pwani Region of Tanzania. Other beneficiaries are the members of the existing trade channel, the District level wholesalers and the village retailers who added a new product to their product range and also benefiting financially. ARTI was also a main beneficiary as the project provide us an opportunity to meet our objective – “Suluhisho la Nishati Rahisi kwa Kila Mtanzania” (Affordable Energy Solutions for Every Tanzanian).
The project has so far benefited more than 6000 low income households who now have a low cost solar system in their homes, 4 local trainers and dozens of local youth who received training and the tools required to provide after sales service centre.