Thoughts on Compassion: SolarAid – Organization History

SolarAid was established in 2006 to fight poverty and climate change and set an ambitious vision: To create a world where everyone has access to clean, renewable energy, with a mission to eradicate the dangerous, polluting kerosene lamps used in Africa.

Their work began in Malawi, where they installed their first solar system and trained local youth so that they could convert kerosene lamps into solar lights. In 2007/08, they expanded their work into Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia, installing solar systems on over 400 rural schools, health clinics and community centers and training entrepreneurs to design, assemble and sell small solar lights and chargers.

In 2008, they launched their social enterprise, SunnyMoney and introduced the mass produced pico solar lights, which enabled them to focus on kickstarting solar markets and achieving scale.

Following a successful pilot project in Mafia Island in 2010, which saw 3000 solar lights in 3 days, they launched their award-winning student lights campaign which was designed to catalyze solar markets–raising awareness, building trust and creating demand for solar lights across the region. This campaign led to SolarAid achieving unprecedented and rapid scale, particularly in Tanzania and Kenya, hitting 1 million sales in 2014, paving the way for solar entrepreneurs to enter and serve these markets.

Since then, they have: launched new operations in Uganda–as they sought to replicate their market catalyzing work, launched new projects in Senegal–where they pioneered the first solar light libraries, making lights available for students to borrow through their local schools, launched the SM100 solar light–designed to push down the cost of solar lighting, while maintaining quality and launched many innovation projects designed to help break down the barriers that prevent low income groups from accessing solar solutions. Innovations included integrating pay as you go technology into entry level pico solar lights and enabling people to pay for lights in installments.

Their work has directly impacted over 11 million people, with many more being reached through the catalytic scaling up of solar markets. Yet more needs to be done. Many homes, schools and clinics are being left behind. The goal is simple – we need to ensure that every home, school and clinic in need in Africa, is able to access solar power and lighting by 2030. No one should be left in the dark.

We want the world to hear your story and we want to help you share it. Tell us how you made the world a better place and we will share it in our monthly Newsletter and our Social Media channels.


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