Help give people in Rwanda access to electricity

by Simon Collings

Vedaste lives in Rwanda, in a village which has no electricity. Around one hundred people in Vedaste’s village have a mobile phone, but no easy way to charge it.  Vedaste wants to set up a business charging mobile phones, and small lanterns which he’ll rent to local residents.

I have just made a loan to Vedaste, through the micro-finance platform Kiva. By helping Vedaste set up his business I’m also helping his neighbours.Mobile phones are making a big impact in villages across Africa, giving people access to information, saving time, and facilitating business. In some countries where mobile money has taken off the phone gives them access to banking services.

Vedaste is a customer of a small renewable energy business called Nuru Energy which has been a ‘field partner’ of Kiva for for nearly 4 years. In that time they have supported 422 entrepreneurs with credit, allowing them to pay for equipment in installments, and they have had no defaults. That’s pretty impressive.

A couple of years ago I visited two villages in Eastern Rwanda where a local entrepreneur was running a phone and light charging service using Nuru’s technology. In both villages the enterprises seemed to be doing a brisk trade.  The national grid is expanding, and the government of Rwanda is also promoting solar home systems for households which won’t be reached by the grid. But solar home systems are not cheap, nor is a connection to the grid, and many people are too poor to be able to afford these options.

With a solar panel and battery, services other than phone and lantern charging can be offered, such as hair cutting and TV viewing. These can be very profitable lines of business. The spread of the grid and the increasing availability of solar home systems will put pressure on these small businesses, so diversifying into other activities will be important for their longer term viability.

Nuru is doing a great job in Rwanda. Why not support one of their entrepreneurs by lending through Kiva?