“Tumiya mwangaza ya jua usiku!” shouted Djasa Djasa from his mobile stage on a busy street in Goma. “Have the brightness of the sun at night!” Passers-by stopped to listen to him and explore the products on display in the caravan next to him. The popular artist was advocating for renewable energy as part of the successful awareness-raising campaign by ÉLAN RDC.
Following the media and outdoor campaign and learning sessions about the advantages of solar energy lamps run by ÉLAN RDC and three local solar energy product suppliers in North Kivu, almost 50% of people in Goma purchased a solar lamp. One convert was John Musivirwa, an economic law student:
"Until I attended the session on solar lamps held by the supplier ALTECH next to my university I did not know much about solar lamps as I have always used kerosene lamps. They demonstrated the benefits and features of solar lamps and I was so impressed I bought one because I study at night so I spend a lot of money on oil. I see now that I have been exposing my health to smoke from kerosene lamps. I'm really happy with this solar lamp, it helps a lot.”
John bought a second lamp a week later.
The DRC has enormous potential for renewable energy as only around 9% of the Congolese population is connected to the power grid and people rely heavily on battery-operated or kerosene lamps which can cost up to $100 a year per household. Yet access to good quality solar lamps is low due to the minor involvement of the private sector in their distribution and their high import costs, which makes the user prices too high for low-income households. The lack of information on the benefits of using solar lamps such as lower exposure to pollution, health improvement and preservation of the environment also reduces the sales to low-income households.
For the past year ÉLAN RDC has been working with local suppliers to develop effective outreach and marketing strategies and viable distribution models. Following the month-long campaign in Goma all our partner suppliers have extended their distribution networks to other towns in North Kivu and have seen demand for solar lamps increase greatly. Thanks to its partnership with us, Luminosity, a UK community interest company, has agreed to co-finance ALTECH to increase its imports and stocks. Our support in communications and marketing has meant that ALTECH has made sales in large quantities which allowed it to repay its loan quickly and now the Luminosity is happy to grant another loan so ALTECH can continue its growth.
ÉLAN RDC has also been working on improvements in access to finance for solar lamp suppliers like ALTECH. It has developed a financial product with Trust Merchant Bank which allows suppliers to access credit. ÉLAN RDC has recently new identified two new suppliers to partner with in order to test the new distribution model in Goma, Bukavu, Kinshasa and Katanga as well as this credit system. In addition ÉLAN RDC is supporting the advocacy for tax reduction in the import and distribution of solar energy products in the DRC to ensure affordable solar lamps and kits are reaching low-income households throughout the country.