After a decade of progressively supporting climate technology entrepreneurs in Kenya, the Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) has extended its reach to Uganda and Tanzania with a program under its renewable energy thematic area, designed to bolster SMEs that are leveraging solar energy in various agricultural value chains.
Funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the ‘Productive Use of Solar Energy’ (PUSE) program is supporting 30 SMEs in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania that are offering solar solutions in different agricultural value chains, from dairy, horticulture, to aquaculture.
Following the official launch of the program, KCIC has conducted an intensive three-day bootcamp to the selected enterprises in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and Kampala. Running from 11-14 July, the bootcamps sought to implement technical training to the companies for growth acceleration, undertake gap analysis validation, and identify five companies per country for result-based grants.
“Our aim is to help these companies become bankable and be able to effectively communicate their solutions. From the three bootcamps, we see that there’s significant lack of awareness of opportunities in this space and how to tap into them. Which is why the topics covered in the bootcamp included investor-readiness, business management, and a deep dive into the trends in the solar energy market,” said KCIC’s Saumu Ismail.
The program will be helping the enterprises unlock the potential of solar energy through access to finance and technical assistance, including product development support, product testing, among others.
For John Kinyage, the CEO of Aquacom, a Tanzanian provider of solar-powered aquaculture technologies, the bootcamp proved transformative, leading his company to secure results-based financing. He expressed enthusiasm for utilizing the funding to install solar-powered fish freezers in areas without reliable electricity.
“We don’t normally get such opportunities for technical trainings, for free! I have realized we’ve been skipping a lot of stuff in business management that is crucial for our growth. I am now confident that we are taking Aquacom across the border!” said a determined Kinyage.
For Ensol Ltd., a solar energy company in Dar es Salaam, a huge opportunity exists in the country’s dairy sector, where a lack of reliable cooling facilities and power accessibility hampers milk reaching the market.
“This is one of the areas we will be targeting in our growth through KCIC support, as we continue to seek more investment in our company. Also, one of the key lessons I’ve learnt here is that investors invest in people, not companies,” said Ensol’s Prosper Magali.
The challenges facing the dairy sector are not unique to Tanzania alone; Nairobi-based Techwin Limited has been addressing similar issues across Kenya’s dairy processing sectors.
“The safety of dairy products in the Kenyan market is affected by numerous factors, including poor handling, storage, processing, and packaging. With support from KCIC, we are looking at scaling up and even undertaking more capacity building for dairy farmers across the country,” said Techwin’s Queen Lombaka.
The bootcamp fostered a collaborative atmosphere, with entrepreneurs like Innocent Ayebare from Heden Engineering solutions in Kampala expressing excitement about implementing new insights gained during the program. Heden Engineering Solutions offers sustainable engineering solutions, including solar products, with the aim of contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment.
During the Kenyan bootcamp in Nairobi, KCIC CEO Joseph Murabula stressed the crucial role of energy in various entrepreneurial value chains and its potential to uplift livelihoods. He expressed the organization’s commitment to piloting the program and closely monitoring the trends in productive solar energy usage in East Africa, with the intention of scaling it up in the near future.
The “Productive Use of Solar Energy” program signifies a remarkable stride towards sustainable energy solutions, economic growth, and environmental stewardship across East Africa. With the combined efforts of KCIC and the participating enterprises, the region is poised to unlock the potential of solar energy in transforming agricultural value chains and improving livelihoods.