#LightsOn - Winning Solar innovation from Africa

At our inaugural event, we celebrated ingenuity, resourcefulness, and commitment to community when we revealed the ten winners of the Hogan Lovells Community Solar Innovation Awards 2017 during the 2018 SEED South Africa Symposium in Pretoria. All of our finalists are a real inspiration and a true testament to how innovative solutions can flourish in the most unlikely environments.

The overall winner was Village Energy in Uganda, which designs and installs customised solar installations for businesses, agriculture and community institutions that lead to improved livelihoods, job creation, and access to services. The company also has a travelling academy, where it trains rural youth and women as solar technicians.

Village Energy, which was founded by Abu Musuuza, was awarded USD10,000 to support their expansion. All ten winners will receive a tailor-made business support package, including USD30,000 pro bono legal advice; peer networking; one-on-one mentorship to develop business plans; and support from SEED to replicate their business model in other regions.

Our inspiration behind establishing these awards were the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Adopted in September 2015 by 193 countries around the world, these global goals call for collaboration between the private sector and civil society to end extreme poverty, tackle inequality and injustice, and safeguard our planet.

Through the Hogan Lovells Community Solar Innovation Awards, and with our partners, Adelphi, SEED and Barefoot College, we have been able to ensure that the best innovative ideas are given a platform and an opportunity to grow amidst the backdrop of some of the most difficult environments. In this way, we demonstrate our support for the challenges that face the more disadvantaged countries in Africa, Asia and South America and provide self-made solutions to tackle energy poverty and address the impact of climate change head on.

The nine other winners of the Hogan Lovells Community Solar Innovation Awards 2017 were:

SAMWAKI, Democratic Republic of Congo, a rural women’s organisation that runs a solar powered radio station, Radio Bubusa, and provides its listeners with portable solar radios and solar charging stations. It also runs an agro-ecological cooperative, COOPAEKI, that focuses on coffee agriculture. 
Solar Freeze, Kenya, provides smallholder farmers in Kenya with access to portable solar cooling units to prevent post-harvest loss, which gives farmers and traders the leverage to move and store smaller quantities of fresh produce more frequently.
Oolu Mali, Mali, is the first pay-as-you-go distributor of off-grid solar energy in Mali. The unique payment infrastructure is complemented by entrepreneurial thinking, which is geared towards promoting employment and gender equality in rural Mali.
Masole Ammele, Malawi, promotes the use of solar water pumps in organic fish farming and production and provides market linkages to fresh fish, dry fish and fish fingerlings through working with organised local household farmers.
Kumudzi Kuwale, Malawi, supplies charging stations in villages where locals can rent solar lamps and batteries, and charge their mobile phones, ensuring basic electricity is affordable.
Frontier Markets, India, is a last-mile sales, marketing and after-sales service distribution company bringing clean energy solutions to rural India. A growing network of rural women are empowered with clean, safe energy access and training to become micro-entrepreneurs promoting solar energy systems in rural India. 
South Asian Forum for Environment, India, uses solar energy to ensure a supply of safe drinking water for the urban poor. This creates a women-centric, end-to-end solution for basic amenities and sanitation with minimal emissions. 
Kalpavriksha Greater Goods, Nepal, alleviates energy poverty in rural Nepal by empowering women entrepreneurs to sell clean energy products, which also stimulates economic growth. These entrepreneurs are given extensive business training and mentorship support. 
Grupo Fenix, Nicaragua, runs courses that target students and professionals to provide information exchange on building and solar-technology. Clients participate in hands-on activities such as building solar cell-phone chargers, and installing photovoltaic systems in rural homes that lack access to electricity. 
All ten winners were selected from over 280 applications across 53 countries, 54% of which were youth-led (under age 35) and 42% of which were owned by women. I was delighted to be part of the international judging panel who awarded entries that demonstrated incredible innovation in capturing and using solar energy to make a real difference to the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest areas, especially those of women and girls.

Working with our partners at Barefoot college, we have a commitment to light up 200,000 households around the world by 20… targeting those in the most underprivileged communities. But we, the corporates, civil servants and individuals alike must all get involved, and every effort to keep the #LightsOn.

Further details about the winners can be found at https://www.hoganlovellssolaraward.com

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