Let There Be Light: Bringing Solar Power to Rural Retailers in Kenya

Jemimah Njoki, a shopkeeper in Nairobi, Kenya, considers herself lucky. She’s one of only a few small business owners in her community with access to clean, affordable electricity.

A kiosk owner proudly displays her Brightbox solar lighting kit.

Her face beams as she proudly displays the Brightbox solar lighting kit she has used for the past year, courtesy of a partnership between Coca-Cola and One Degree Solar. The two companies are teaming up to cut energy costs for small businesses in Kenya, where less than 30 percent of all households have access to grid-based electricity.

“Since I received the Brightbox solar kit, I don’t use the candles,” Njoki says, pointing to the bulb that has become the source of both light and more business and revenue. “I can open my shop for a few extra hours each day.”

After a successful pilot in 100 kiosks, Coca-Cola is bringing the kits to 2,000 small-scale businesses in the Nairobi area. Each kit includes two LED bulbs, a small solar panel and a device with multiple ports for charging mobile phones and powering radios.

Small business owners in Nairobi, nearly half of whom are women, normally close at sundown or use kerosene lamps, candles and flashlights to stay open after dark.

“This makes a big difference in how we operate our kiosks and how much money we make at the end of the day,” Njoki says. “Since I stopped using candles and kerosene, I save $15 weekly. This may not seem like much to big businesses, but to a small entrepreneur it’s quite significant.”

In addition to enabling the kiosks to stay open an average of four additional hours each day thanks to the light provided, the kits helped boost weekly earnings by an average of 15 percent and cut energy costs by more than 90 percent – mainly by alleviating the need to purchase kerosene lamps, flashlight batteries or candles.

“We believe this project with One Degree Solar will go a long way in helping retailers and kiosk owners extend their operating hours, reduce their operating costs and experience the numerous benefits of renewable energy,” said Patrick Pech, managing director of Nairobi Bottlers Ltd., a local Coca-Cola bottler.

Gaurav Manchanda, founder of One Degree Solar, applauded Coke for the initiative. “It’s exciting to see these entrepreneurs staying open longer and earning more, especially as their kiosks are often the only locations in their neighborhoods with lights on at night,” he says. “Some of these kiosks have literally become beacons of light in their communities.”