Imagine a day that ends when the sun goes down. There is no light to switch on, no outlet with which to charge your phone, no TV to distract you, no refrigerator to preserve your food. This is the reality for more than 1 million people living in energy poverty in rural Namibia. This reality is made even more challenging simply due to the nature of Namibia. It is the second most sparsely populated country in the world. Neighbors often live miles from one another, far from paved roads and modern services. The traditional electrical grid is not a viable option for rural Namibia. Yet solar energy, in a country that is largely desert, is a viable solution to getting people out of energy poverty.
Elephant Energy focuses on local solutions to the global issue of energy poverty. By establishing a distribution and sales network for household solar light and charging devices, Elephant Energy enables households without grid electricity to access clean, sustainable energy on their own terms putting them in control of their own steps along the energy ladder. Elephant Energy began with a light. We have since expanded to include paygo products, cell phone charging, and radio. In 2017, we expanded our product line to include home systems, allowing a lighting solution for a whole home, rather than for just an individual room. We are now using mobile money, saving our entrepreneurs and our customers valuable time and money due to a decreased need for transportation.
Elephant Energy identifies, recruits, trains and supports individuals living in off grid communities to become Sales Agents. These entrepreneurs are then able to sell throughout their community. This not only allows the entrepreneurs added income for household expenses, but allows our work to reach into communities that would not otherwise be able to access any form of clean energy.
Meet Evelina Shaningwa– Evelina has been working with Elephant Energy in the Oshana region since 2013. She uses her added income from the sale of solar products to pay her children’s school related fees and improve her business. She has also been able to become a trusted and respected member of her community as she allows access to light and communication where before there was none.
Meet Anna Simbulu – Anna is Elephant Energy’s longest serving sales agent and has been with us since the beginning. She has been able to make Elephant Energy sales her primary source of income, operating her own market stall at the Katima Open Market. She has not only increased the demand for Elephant Energy products throughout the Zambezi region but has been able to dramatically improve her own standard of living.
Elephant Energy distributes safe, solar lights to schools throughout rural northern Namibia through the Light Library program. These lights provide learners with the light they need to perform their studies while sensitizing learners and their families to the benefits of alternative energy. In addition to the lights each school is provided lessons as part of an optional curriculum on energy, focused in particular on renewable energy. Elephant Energy has worked with partners including the Peace Corps and World Teach to identify schools in the north eastern and central regions of Namibia that are in need of lighting resources and can act as reliable stewards of the libraries for years to come. Thus far, EE has distributed more than 800 lights allowing 6,500 learners access to light.
Despite the low cost of Elephant Energy solar technologies, many Namibians are unable to afford the up-front cost. Using Bluetooth technology Elephant Energy is able to deliver customers a payment system, wherein they pay for their product in installments. Customers are able to purchase a product for a small deposit and make monthly payments while utilizing their solar product. This allows customers to put money that would otherwise be spent on candles and kerosene towards paying off their solar product. Once they have completed payments, the light functions as a normal solar lamp.
The purchase of an EE solar light saves a household approximately $7 per month.