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  • Writer's pictureAbsalom Ochieng

Village Power Uganda Limited partners with Mercy Corps in “Bidi Bidi for Solar” project:

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

After a competitive selection process, Mercy Corps ( selected Village Power, along with other esteemed partners, such as D-Light, to provide a volume of solar home systems at subsidised prices to residents of the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda. Through its “Bidi Bidi for Solar” project, Mercy Corps, hopes to create a conducive environment for at least two already-established solar system providers, introduce their services in Bidi Bidi settlement by testing a Results based financing approach for solar system purchase in humanitarian settings. Village Power was chosen for its wide product range, last mile sales and distribution business model, on site warranty and professional installations.

The project used a market-based approach to create consumer awareness of quality solar home system options to activate the local markets in Bidi Bidi.

The Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement is one of the largest refugee settlements in the world. Opened in 2016, by the end of 2019 the settlement offered shelter to nearly a quarter million refugees fleeing from South Sudan. Residents – households, farmers, and small businesses - are currently paying a premium for substandard lighting and power products and there is a clear need for good quality solar distributors that can meet the energy and financing needs of low income and sparsely distributed rural populations. There is therefore a lack of access to awareness of Off Grid Solar products, that are within reach financially, and that offer better long-term value compared with the dry cell batteries and poor quality alternatives.

Phase 1 of ‘Bidi Bidi for Solar’ project focused on expanding access to solar for households and businesses in the camp’s Zones 3 and 4, in West Nile Region. Village Power provided 250 households and 10 businesses with affordable light and small business solar solutions on a PAYGo basis. To make these sales and provide after sales service, Village Power set up a last mile service and distribution sales network, hired 4 local staff to ensure the target beneficiaries were properly trained on the benefits of solar as well as the on the Village Power solar solutions that were being promoted and to collect installment payments.

Mercy Corps is a global team of humanitarians, working together on the front lines of today’s biggest crises to create a future of possibility, where everyone can prosper.

The Mercy Corps mission is to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities.

Mercy Corps works in more than 40 countries around the world, with nearly 6,000 team members that work side by side with people living through poverty, disaster, violent conflict and the acute impacts of climate change.

In 2019, Mercy Corps launched the “Bidi Bidi for solar” program in Bidi Bidi Refugee

Settlement, Zone 3 and 4, in West Nile Province. The goal of the project was to improve access to reliable sources of household lighting. According to preliminary market research, the potential market size for the areas is 21,390 to 37,077 households for PAYGO solar home systems in the settlements in the West Nile region. STARRE takes a non-traditional approach to supporting the energy sector in refugee settlements through a commitment to market driven principles. Its goal was to not deliver direct services and instead will address the barriers to entry for private sector actors to access this potential market. Mercy Corps established two Innovation Hubs in the target areas to facilitate market-based solutions to humanitarian challenges, which can be leveraged in partnership with private sector to increase access to energy for refugee and host community in the area.

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