Business Models that Leverage the Diaspora to Expand Energy Access, a webinar hosted by Arc Finance on the occasion of the 2015 Global Diaspora Week, brought together three organizations with different business models that leverage diaspora engagement while promoting energy access: the Sogexpress/Western Union remittance-based initiative in Haiti; the MamaMikes e-commerce platform in Kenya, and the Milaap social funding platform in India. These businesses have found innovative ways to tap into an estimated US$1 trillion in official and unofficial remittances that flow across borders each year. These businesses focus on the growing interest in directed remittances.
Sogexpress, represented by Dominique Policard, Executive Director for Commercial Affairs, has created a platform, www.klereayiti.com, to encourage the Haitian diaspora in the USA and beyond to pay for solar energy products for family members at home. Relatives can collect the solar device at one of Sogexpress’ flagship stores in Haiti. This initiative builds on Sogexpress’ established remittance network. Sogexpress also sells solar products directly in Haiti through direct sales from its flagship stores and via its network of street agents. Marketing takes places at both ends of the process, and in total more than 60,000 products have been sold via these three platforms, benefiting more than 300,000 people.
CEO and founder Segeni Ng’ethe introduced MamaMikes, a Kenyan e-commerce platform, which targets the diaspora, enabling them to buy a variety of productive and income-generating gifts for family members back home. The gifts range from live goats, to vouchers for food and electricity, as well as services such as mobile airtime or tuition credits. Since late 2014, MamaMikes has also offered renewable energy products including portable solar devices and efficient cookstoves.
Milaap is a social funding platform that attracts small loans and aggregates them to lend to microfinance institutions for energy, sanitation, health or education programs.
According to CEO and co-founder Mayukh Choudhury, Milaap has expanded beyond crowdfunding to accept larger amounts, including from high net worth diaspora individuals who care about improving access to quality energy in India while maximizing the impact of their philanthropy.
The panellists from the three organizations discussed the key factors that enable businesses to tap into the demonstrable desire to expand energy access. Marketing is key: both senders and recipients need to be aware of the products offered, and know how to access them. Moreover, people need to be certain that the product they purchase will be reliable and of high quality. Related to this, trust in the model among both remitters and recipients is crucial; customers need to be able to contact businesses in a variety of ways, be it online, face to face, or on the phone, to be assured that products are really reaching the intended recipient.
These three models are just a glimpse of some of the ways that diaspora groups can promote clean energy access. These businesses show that there is great potential in scaling the positive impact of diaspora groups, both by opening new channels for diaspora engagement and replicating existing channels in new countries, and by deepening the reach of existing channels. Sogexpress, MamaMikes and Milaap all have ambitious plans for growth in the coming year; do connect with us to stay up to date with all the latest developments!
Learn more about Arc’s work with Sogexpress here.
Read about Milaap’s support for MFIs’ energy programs here.
About Arc Finance: Established in 2008, Arc Finance is a global non-profit that brings together practitioners, funders, pro-poor enterprises, and end-users to develop solutions for access to finance for clean energy and water.