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Community champions inspiring local entrepreneurs in Tanzania’s newly electrified villages


In the newly electrified villages of Tanzania’s Tanga and Pwani regions, productive use of energy (PUE) champions are playing a critical role in helping other entrepreneurs see how electricity could boost income, improve livelihoods and transform rural areas.

Electricity uptake is a priority for the country’s Rural Energy Agency’s (REA) grid densification programme, which aims to stimulate economic development in newly electrified villages. Energy 4 Impact is working with REA to empower local entrepreneurs, including agro-processers, wood mills, carpenters and retailers, to capitalise on the grid expansions.

The Rural Electrification Densification Programme (REDP), a partnership between Energy 4 Impact, REA, Multiconsult (programme funded by Norway to help villages reap the benefits of electricity) and the Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania, is promoting opportunities to use electricity to improve efficiency, expand, diversify or develop value-add activities. For example, automating can eliminate time-consuming manual tasks, increasing productivity and boosting profit margins.

To create awareness of the commercial potential of electricity, Energy 4 Impact ran roadshows in the villages of Tanga and Pwani. It enlisted local entrepreneurs – the PUE champions – to drum up interest in the events by driving trucks around the villages urging residents to come along. During the roadshows, a PUE film was shown and real-life demonstrations staged on the usage of common electrical appliances such as fridges, juice blenders, hair clippers, hair dryers and fryers. The exposure established the champions as trusted go-to people within the community for advice on PUE.

The villagers were really fired up watching videos of their neighbours using electric machines and tools for welding, grain milling, carpentry, car repair, water supply, construction and sale of cold drinks.

- says Anna Jansan, a PUE champion and shopkeeper. She recently began selling cold drinks after acquiring a fridge, thanks to the grid connection.

Local authorities, appliance suppliers, community-based organisations and financiers also attended the Energy 4 Impact roadshows.

We gave the entrepreneurs training on entrepreneurship, record keeping, marketing and customer care.

- says Fredrick Tunutu, Energy 4 Impact’s REDP Programme Manager.

We advised on financing prospects and the process of obtaining electric appliances. We made them aware of workplace health and safety measures related to electrical appliances and how to deal with or avoid electrical hazards.

The roadshows reached more than 2,700 people in 39 villages. 201 micro-enterprises and SMEs were recruited to be part of the 300 enterprises to receive tailored business and mentoring support, including business case assessments, value chain analysis, financial needs evaluation and linkages with financial institutions. Energy 4 Impact signed a partnership with the Private Agriculture Sector Support (PASS), an agricultural finance provider, to link agro-processors to Vision Fund International, which offers micro-finance services to rural communities.

This collaborative community approach is yielding results. Uptake of electricity for commercial uses in the villages is poised to grow by 15 per cent, with over 250 electrical appliances earmarked for local entrepreneurs and 120 loans issued to businesses.

- Fredrick says.

The new PUE activities should boost local prosperity and help make the grid extensions viable for governments and investors.