Improving Access to Solar in Rural Areas of Cameroon

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Project Overview

Access to modern energy for lighting continues to be a major challenge in Africa. It is estimated that of the approximately 110 million off-grid households (with 580 million individuals), more than half use kerosene lamps as their primary light source. It is estimated that $17 billion are spent annually in Sub-Saharan Africa on kerosene for lighting, clearly demonstrating the ability of users to pay.

Recent technological improvements in lighting, particularly in the area of Solar Lightning Products, create opportunities for delivering affordable and appropriate technological solutions tailored especially to the needs of off-grid African consumers.

AWANGO by Total (former Total Access To Solar) aims to provide affordable solar energy solutions adapted to low-income families with no reliable access to energy.

GIZ (the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, German International Cooperation), who works on behalf of several German ministries (amongst them the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) works in collaboration with private sector enterprises in order to realise so-called “Development partnerships with the Private sector” (DPP). The aim is to closely integrate the private sector into development processes

Under this framework, the two partners are collaborating to implement a Development Partnership Project named ‘Improving Access to Solar Energy through a Base of the Pyramid Approach’ whose objective is to improve access to solar energy for the low income population by enhancing market supply chains for pico photovoltaic systems in Cameroon.

This joint project, implemented in Kenya and Cameroon, commenced activities in May 2012 and ended in November 2014. Key activities under the Project included:

  1. Training of 150 solar lighting value chain entrepreneurs in each country and involving of 50 micro-enterprises in the dissemination of the solar lamp in each country;
  2. Baseline study and impact study is done based on the baseline assessment made at the beginning of the year;
  3. Awareness creation material is prepared and intervention is done to end users ;
  4. Recommendation is made for a recycling system for solar lighting products and partners for the implementation are identified ;
  5. Access to finance (identify options and make linkages to the market actors).

By the end of the project, it is targeted to sell 100,000 solar lighting products in each of the countries (Kenya & Cameroon) to end users whereby 40% of the end users will be BOP.

An overview of the project can be view here .

Baseline Study

Scope of the study:

The main objective of the study is to understand the energy lighting and communication needs of the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) target group. In doing so, the study described the socio-economic baseline situation, with a focus on energy issues, in the some selected regions of Cameroon. This study enables to:

  • Gain a thorough understanding of the socio-economic context and human environment of the some geographical zone in Cameroon. According to the Agro ecological diversity of Cameroon, the selected areas for the study has been The North, The South and the Littoral
  • Understand the lighting and communication habits of the BOP, the challenges they face and their expenditure on energy (for lighting and mobile phone charging). It also compares among the different region their Capacity to pay as well as their ability to Pay for modern lighting in different
  • Identify local barriers and strength to consider in the distribution of lighting products in off grid areas.

Some key results of the study:

Focus group conducted during the study reveals that:

  • Among 80% and 100% of the populations are desirable of affordable solar lighting products.
  • Most of them are regarding on the quality of the products, would like to be clearly inform on the lifespan of the products, their characteristics and requires from distributors a warranty
  • They suggest to have local networks of technician able to provide after sales services for Pico PV systems
  • Proper period for the sales of Pico PV They suggest to the distributors to sale during the harvest seasons

Interviews conducted at the households level reveals:

  • - Less than 2% of the interviewee possess a solar lanterns, 18% of them are not satisfied and troubleshoots happens less than one year after the purchasing date.
  • - 70% of them had never heard about
  • - 8 households out of 10 possess a mobile phone and up to 95% of them pay to recharge the mobile phones.
  • - In some areas, Up to 22% of their revenue is spent for lighting and recharging of phones.

A copy of the study can be downloaded here.

Building Capacities of rural Micro entrepreneurs/ creating a value chain for access to modern lighting:

In order to reinforce the supply chain for lighting products, rural solar entrepreneurs have been trained throughout the country. The main objective of this training was to enable the vendors understand the lighting needs of the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) target group and enable them to successfully market solar lighting products in the target group. In doing so, the training covered business and technical skills with a focus on solar lantern sales, repair, maintenance issues. The training also involved a theoretical part and a practical part.

In Cameroon 169 Micro Entrepreneurs have been trained, where 58 were women and 124 youths under 35 years

Micro entrepreneurs identification/Selection

Having suitable and motivated Micro entrepreneurs to handle a solar business. To avoid that, selection criteria were settled and based on :

  • The activities of the entrepreneurs in an off grid area. Prior were given to those already doing a business in an offgrid area
  • Their motivation to attend to the training
  • Their ability to fund theirseleves or start the solar business after the training

Prior were given to Youths under 35 years and women

The application form and selection criteria can be found here English, French

Training materials

For each module of the training different materials were produced:

Ø A Trainer's Manual which was designed with the aim to equip potentials trainers with basics knowledge on the issue

Ø A Learner's booklet has been designed to content a summary of the various concepts covered during training and is intended to serve as a notebook for learners during their sales activity and maintenance of Pico PV systems.

For the training two different modules has been designed:

Technical module intended to equip entrepreneurs on :

  • Specific knowledge on the concepts of Electricity, Energy and Renewable Energy
  • How to handle and maintain a Pico PVsytems
  • How to recognize a quality product based on Lighting Africa standards
  • After-sales service for Pico PV products

The entreupreunarial module improved their skills on :

  • How to manage of a micro enterprise in rural areas : Accounting, financial analysis of their business
  • Market analysis and techniques for selling Pico Photovoltaic products.
  • How to develop of an eligible business plan for Microfinance Institution.

All the training materials can be found here: Technical trainer's manual , Technical learner's booklet, Entrepreneurial trainer's manual, Entrepreneurial learner's booklet

Awareness rising/Consumer Education

As for Lighting Africa : For a market to grow and thrive, consumers must know what products are available and understand the value and benefits of these products over what the consumers are currently using (kerosene and candles). Consumers must also be able to distinguish between good and poor quality products in order to get good value for their scarce resources.

To make this feasible, the project has produced several sensitization materials and tools to enable the well understanding of solar lighting, with a focus on :

  • The local avaibility of solar products
  • Advantages of Pico PV systems compared to other lighting products and their impacts on people's lives.
  • The promotion of good quality products (Base on Lighting Africa Standards)
  • The good handling and usage of Pico PV systems

Target group

Consisted of micro-enterprises and end-users at the Base of the Pyramid (BOP). Are also concerned by this were Other stakeholders who also need to be informed on the social impact of Solar lanterns, i.e. :public, microfinance institutions, solar lanterns distributors

The sensitization campaign

In order to enhance the knowledge on impacts of better lighting solutions, and change it can bring to rural households of Cameroon, a sensitization campaign have been organized in collaboration with the Cinema Numerique Ambulant (CNA).

CNA promotes African movies to remotes area of Africa and organizes sensitization campaign on thematic that can improve rural livelihoods. Through CNA Cameroon, we found the best way to bring the sound of solar in remote areas.

23 localities from remotes areas from the Far North, East and South west region have been targeted by this campaign and children, women and men have been sensitized and entertained on the advantages of Pico Pv products.

The campaign have also been the occasion for the population to test solar products available, and some of them have taken the decision to afford some of them wich was sold by partners to the campaign that is Total Cameroon and Light4all Production

The Movie:"enlightened our countryside " is a product of the DPP GIZ TATs realized by MAM Pictures and Sounds which shows social impacts on how adopting better lighting solutions literally changed the life of the populations of Assok. It gives also great advices on how to handle solar products and the necessity to buy certified products

All the sensitization materials can be viewed here:


The partnership also aims to implement a strategy to manage end of life (EOL) solar lamps to prevent the dispersion of substances that may cause health and environmental hazards. Indeed, although solar lighting products do not present any environmental or human health hazard in ordinary use, contaminating substances may be released into the environment if the disposal of these products is not properly handled. The concentration of hazardous substances contained in solar lamps depends on their technology. Some earlier models equipped with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) contain mercury in vapour form. Cadmium is present in NiCd batteries as well as in several Li-ion battery chemistries. But the rapid progress of both LED and Lithium-battery technologies, coupled with their cost advantage, contributes to the removal of these hazardous substances from recent solar lamps designs. While not hazardous under normal circumstances, materials composing recent lamps can become hazardous to health if burnt or melted, and will contaminate the environment if dumped or littered.

The general objective of this study is to inform the definition of a strategy to manage responsibly EOL solar lamps in order to prevent the dispersion of substances that may cause health and environmental risks. Specific objectives of this study include:

  • In Kenya, the study aims to inform the design of a recycling system building on existing capacities and taking into account specific regulatory & legal, technical, economic, financial, environmental, and social & cultural factors. More precisely, the study looks into strategies which could be adopted to take back and recycle1 EOL solar lamps. It covers all solar products distributed by Total Kenya Limited (TKL) and their corresponding distribution networks including the conventional network (Total network and conventional distribution partners) as well as the last mile network (resellers, Total employees, Last Mile distribution partners, etc.)
  • In Cameroon, the study is limited to an opportunity and risk analysis of establishing a recycling system in the current legal and regulatory context, looking notably at the legal constraints (e.g. taxation, legal permits needed, etc.) which are likely to be imposed by the government

The recycling Strategy In Kenya regarding Total Kenya Limited reveals the following key points for End Of Life (EOL) solar Lamps :

  • An Awareness Campaign : With the aim to raise end user's awareness and different actors along of the recycling chain to inform them about the importance of e-waste recycling for environmental and health purposes;
  • The Collection of Waste Lamps : Base on existing facilities that can be leveraged to collect EOL solar lamps, starting with the existing distribution system. The main challenge is to design a collection system that reaches out end users located in remote areas of the country. Adapted Incentive to motivate end users to give back their EOL appliances also remain a key challenge.
  • The Processing of the Waste : the recycling of solar lamps is not expected to pose any particular technical issue, as the lamps do not contain any problematic fractions. An analysis of operation cost structure shows that recycling of solar lamps should be profitable for the recycling Company
  • The Sustainability of the system : The main challenge will be to ensure the financial sustainability of solar lamps recycling taking into account the overall recycling costs, including collection and processing costs, compared to the value of its recycled parts

A Copy of the recycling Study can be downnloaded here

Impact study

Ways forward/ Other Challenges:

  • Follow up and empower trained entrepreneurs, Develop new ventures with solar distributors ;
  • Develop an experience Financial products for Solar Entrepreneurs ;
  • Improve taxation and customs codes on the importations of Solar products / Reduce the taxation and customs rates on the importation of Solar products ;
  • Put in place Norms on the quality of solar components in Cameroon ;
  • Continue Sensitization Campaigns in remote areas ;
  • Implement a Recycling Chain for end of life Solar products ;

Other Relevant Study

Lighting Africa Policy Review_Cameroon

Value Chain Analysis of Lighting and Telephone Recharging Options in Off-grid Cameroon_ (SNV Research on Pico PV in Cameroon

Loi n° 2011/022 du 14 décembre 2011 régissant le secteur de l'électricité au Cameroun

Loi n° 2013/004 du 18 avril 2013 fixant les incitations à l’investissement prive en république du Cameroun

Building Capacities of Rural Entrepreneurs

One of the main Objective of the project was to create a value chain to for Pico PV lighting systems to rural areas. This have been feasible through the training of rural entrepreneurs

Further Information