Digital Agent Energy+ project: developing economic activities through solar energy at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
In Turkana County, Kenya, Kakuma refugee camp is one of the largest and oldest refugee camps, hosting more than 190,000 people living there as of the end of July 2020. Since its establishment in 1992, Kakuma has grown from a temporary refugee camp to a full-fledged city with its own market. A wide variety of micro-businesses have sprung up in the refugee camp, with merchants offering a variety of products and services to the area's residents and host communities. From convenience stores and moto-taxis to selling food, energy and clothing, these entrepreneurs are actively contributing to the local economy of the community. The growth of entrepreneurship is impressive, with over 2,100 small businesses established in the camp and surrounding villages.
Despite growing economic activity, access to energy still remains a challenge. The camp is not connected to a regular grid for electricity supply and only 5% of households have reliable access to energy. The lack of access to energy requires most residents to rely on traditional sources (kerosene, fuel, etc.) that are generally described as costly and inefficient with a negative impact on health, safety and environment.
In this context, the Digital Agents for Energy+ pilot project was launched through the Smart Communities Coalition (SCC), a public-private network that aims at improving the delivery of essential services to forcibly displaced people and their host communities. The coalition's efforts are based on three fundamental pillars: energy, connectivity and digital tools.
An innovative project to provide essential services to the Kakuma refugee camp
Despite previous efforts in solar distribution and energy access, an in-depth market analysis revealed a significant need for quality energy solutions in the region. The objective of Digital Agents for Energy+ project is to meet this demand while promoting financial inclusion and business development to create income-generating opportunities.
In the frame of this project, micro entrepreneurs will benefit from sales trainings of solar products and facilitate connections to external markets.
Multiple stakeholders are involved: Mastercard has developed an application to connect wholesalers and vendors locally, enabling them to control and track sales of solar solutions supplied by TOTAL. Field coordination is provided by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), while the International Trade Centre (ITC) provides entrepreneurship training and business mentorship to participants. In addition to delivering solutions, TOTAL offered various training courses, including on solar products and sales techniques, as well as dedicated marketing materials.
The pilot project "Digital Agents for Energy+" has a threefold objective:
- Training refugees to sell solar energy products and develop local entrepreneurship
- Providing sustainable, affordable and quality energy solutions in Kakuma
- Develop new distribution models to reach the last mile in hard-to-reach places like refugee camps.
The Digital Agents for Energy+ pilot project is now coming to an end. The real success of this pilot can be measured, not by the number of lamps sold, but by the experience gained by wholesalers and vendors to further develop the sales activities of solar solutions.