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Ensibuuko partners with M-Kopa

Ensibuuko; a start-up at Outbox that leverage on mobile and web technologies to improves the livelihood of smallholder rural farmers in Uganda has signed a contract with M-Kopa, a solar company based in Kenya provide affordable solar kits on Pay-Go (an arrangement that enable farmers to make a deposit of $35 and acquire a solar kit worth $228 which they pay in the period of one year using mobile money).

Through this partnership 50,000 off-grid small holder rural farmers in central Uganda will be able to acquire affordable solar kit on a pay-go arrangement. Ensibuuko will tap into a network of its 400 Extension workers in the 35 Districts to act as sales agent. The partnership is estimated at net-worth of $700,000 raised as commission from selling the solar kits.

According to the Ensibuuko team, the fact that Ensibuuko leverage on mobile technologies to improve the lives of rural farmers, it was very vital to seek for partnership with a company that supply affordable solar kits with payment arrangement that favour the income flows of rural famers. "Our goal of marrying agriculture with ICT is going to be successful since farmers will be able to have their mobile phones charged every day," says David Opio, the founder and team lead at Ensibuuko.


Only 12% of 6.5 million households’ access national grid electricity, according to Uganda National Household Survey report 2010. Most of our people use tadooba (oil candles) for lighting.  When you ask Ugandans what they most desire to improve about their housing situation, the number 1 answer is “better lighting”, according to GIZ household survey. And no wonder; without light, children cannot study in the night, leading to a major gap in the quality of education between rural and urban areas; entrepreneurs cannot do productive activities after dark, limiting earning potential; and darkness leaves homes and people more vulnerable to theft and assaults.

Rural Ugandans have three basic energy needs;

  • Lighting – 90% of Ugandan households use kerosene for lighting. Other use candles (36%) or battery – powered torches (79%)
  • Phone charging – 90% of Ugandan households have at least one mobile phone, and 75% have two or more phones. Mobile phones not only allow people to stay in touch with loved ones is other villages or in city, but also to conduct business and access banking.
  • Radios – 84% of households own at least one radio, and radios are the primary means of mass communication in rural areas. Most of these radios are powered b toxic dry cell batteries; the average Ugandan family goes through 2.2 pairs of batteries per week listening to the radio – 220 batteries pert year.
  • Lost productivity – villagers travel around 2.6 km to buy kerosene, and up to 20 km to charge mobile phone – time they could otherwise spend on productive activities. Meanwhile, shops without light must close at night, or spend their profits on kerosene to stay open.

Kerosene, paying for mobile phone charging, and radio batteries – all have devastating effects on Ugandans’ well- being.

All this energy is expensive. An average Ugandan spends approximately UGX 320, 000 per year (about $123) just on lighting, mobile phone charging, and radio batteries. With most Ugandans living on less than $4 per day, this can be 9% of family’s income – or up to 30% for a family living on $1 per day.

Mobile phones are becoming one of the biggest infrastructures in speeding up agricultural activities. The transfer of money “mobile money” from one person to another has been made easier due to use of mobile phones. Other added values includes; transmitting information, transacting businesses, communication among family members. All these can constantly be made possible and cheap when affordable solar devices are provided to rural famers.

The entrepreneurial spirit of starting small business or small shops is one of the major key tool of fighting household poverty and unemployment. Many of the business in rural areas can not extend an extra hour at night due to darkness and fear of thieves.

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