The DRC has enormous potential for renewable energy as only 9% of the population is connected to the power grid. With its high population growth, the grid is failing to meets the needs of the Congolese so the demand for alternatives sources of energy such as solar kits, micro hydroelectricity and biomass are likely to increase in the near future.
ÉLAN RDC is working to improve access to and use of renewable energy by assisting market participants to develop effective models of education, product marketing and distribution. ÉLAN RDC also aims to create more favourable conditions for investors by facilitating their access to information.
Case Study - HALT Bank
Entrepreneur and producer of cooking stoves, Joseph Kayembe, has a dream that everyone in the province of Katanga in the DRC will one day own a good quality cooking stove. Currently 95% of the Congolese population use traditional models that can cost up to $25 each month due to their insufficient insulation.
“We call the traditional models ‘katchombecha’ - the demon of poverty” says Joseph.
Joseph realised the flaw with the original stoves and decided to improve this model by designing a stove with a ceramic layer inside which helps with insulation and so require less fuel to heat. With Joseph’s models people could make huge savings on household expenses in the long-term.
The average household spends 1,000 CF a day on charcoal to heat their stoves, whereas the improved stoves only need 200 CF worth of charcoal each day. This money saved could then be used for other expenses like schooling and medicine while also contributing to the conservation of Congolese forests by using less charcoal. However the improved models cost significantly more than the traditional models so people are less able to stretch to this amount as a significant household purchase.
To combat this primary purchase barrier, Joseph set up HALT Banque, an organisation that produces improved cooking stoves using local materials and has a flexible payment scheme to help poor people afford them. Yet despite the more accessible route towards a new stove, few people were taking him up on his offer and he was struggling to attract enough customers. That was when ÉLAN RDC met Joseph and saw a few simple ways his service could be adapted to help him with his cause.
ÉLAN RDC worked with Joseph to form a new marketing strategy to increase the awareness of improved cooking stoves and target poor people in rural areas as well as in town. Together they are also improving the quality of production to ensure only the best stoves are sold. Joseph is also working on improving his distribution model to widen his distribution network throughout the province.
With other producers Joseph held weekly events at the market in Lubumbashi, the capital of the Katanga province to raise awareness of the benefits of improved cooking stoves and their availability locally. Its aim was also to attract potential distributors of improved cooking stoves, in particular women.
Joseph explains: “Once we have given a stove to a woman she then tells her friends about it and then by word of mouth the news spreads. It is for this reason that we are trying particularly to work with women as they are the main distributors and buyers of stoves.”
He is now also working with female market sellers in the area to garner their support and get them to sell his products to their clients through word of mouth recommendation and a wider distribution network.
ÉLAN RDC is also supporting other local suppliers and producers of improved cooking stoves including Mam’Africa and ADVV, with the same initiatives to improve their businesses.
“If we can stimulate the local market for improved stoves we can help people save money whilst also saving the environment.” Joseph says.
Since the beginning of his partnership with ÉLAN RDC, Joseph has sold over 100 stoves and opened a distribution network in another district of Lubumbashi. ÉLAN RDC is continuing to facilitate the improvement of production costs and HALT Bank’s linkages with large enterprises, in order to continue the expansion of his business.