Renewable Energy

How SunFunder and IKEA Foundation are energising families in rural communities

Fatuma (right) who benefits from a solar system provided by SolarNow, one of the many small innovative solar companies supported by SunFunder in Uganda. Photo credit: SolarNow

The IKEA Foundation is happy to award a grant to SunFunder to help 6 million people across east and west Africa and India get to access renewable energy.

SunFunder provides loans for solar energy companies that serve people and businesses in rural areas. By offering loans to emerging solar energy companies that struggle to raise the investment they need, SunFunder will reach people living in off-grid and weak-grid communities.

Since 2012, SunFunder has provided loans to innovative solar companies that distribute last-mile solar products and services. Five million people now have better access to renewable energy thanks to SunFunder’s financing—and our grant will help them reach another 6 million people.

Power to support a family

Fatuma lives in Kamuli, a rural town in eastern Uganda. Her husband purchased a 50W solar system from SolarNow, one of the many innovative solar companies supported by SunFunder. This helped Fatuma and her husband light their home at night, instead of using kerosene lamps.

However, soon after purchasing the solar system, Fatuma’s husband fell ill and could no longer support the family. The responsibility to earn a living fell on Fatuma. She decided to upgrade their 50W household system to a 150W small business solution, so she could start her own business. Through this, she earned 10,000-15,000 Ugandan shillings a day (around $3-5), enabling her to support her family for seven months while her husband was recovering. She also saved a little money for the future.

Fatuma says: “I bought a SolarNow system so that I can financially sustain my family. I charge 20-30 phones a day, run a small barbershop, operate a small cinema hall, and offer computer lessons all on the same system. I can generate income from my SolarNow system to maintain my family and pay school fees for my children. I am very proud of my solar system and my clients are very happy.”

Better opportunities

The solar systems installed by companies like Solar Now have significant impact. Children have light to do their homework by at night and households are no longer reliant on toxic and dangerous kerosene, improving health, safety and air quality. These companies also promote gender equality in their hiring processes and in the local communities where they operate, providing women with employment opportunities and enhancing their economic empowerment.

SolarNow has been a customer of SunFunder since 2014. It is a for-profit social business which sells and installs modular solar systems and appliances for households and businesses in east Africa. It provides last-mile distribution, financing and after-sales servicing to its clients.

Jolanda van Ginkel, Programme Manager for Renewable Energy at the IKEA Foundation, adds: ‘We are happy to support our partner SunFunder with a grant because we believe that helping women like Fatuma access renewable energy will enable them to afford a better everyday life for their families, while also protecting the planet.’