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Harald Schützeichel

A new support for solar entrepreneurs: Sendea

The international Stiftung Solarenergie has started the "solar entrepreneur network for decentralized energy access" (Sendea). Sendea enables solar entrepreneurs to build their solar company and let it grow.

 

Independent Off-Grid Solar SME as the missing middle 

The solar off-grid industry in Africa and Asia nowadays is mainly dominated by international manufacturers or distribution companies. However, the establishment of local solar companies, which work independently and are majority owned by domestic entrepreneurs, is important for sustainable job creation in the off-grid industry.

Small and medium enterprises (SME) are the main driver for innovation, poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The lack of small and medium enterprises (SME) in developing countries is a significant obstacle - commonly referred to as "the missing middle". 

 

Double gap

Young solar companies face a double gap:

1. Early stage gap

  • Lack of access to experience from other solar entrepreneurs
  • Difficulties to get products due to the small order size these young companies have
  • Not big enough to get support for business and management support
  • Strong restrictions in accessing required capital: "Wait-and-see" attitude of investors, no loans from local banks or only with unfavorable lending conditions. 

2. Community gap 

For young entrepreneurs it is very difficult to get information and exchange field experiences about business development, products, customer service, customer training, and reliable maintenance. The need for a customized mentoring and the opportunity to share experiences with other entrepreneurs is evident. 

 

Sendea provides a double solution

Sendea closes the current double gap by building a bridge:

  • Sendea is focused on early stage companies and their special gap
  • Sendea includes not just finance or technical assistance, but a strong long-term support as a network of like-minded entrepreneurs, coached and mentored by professional practitioners.

 

At the same time, Sendea offers this service in a dual way, combining practical field work and projects with consuming and mentoring.

 

Proven concepts

Sendea relies on proven concepts from the Stiftung Solarenergie, which have been implemented by this foundation in East Africa and Asia since 2004 to locally promote a solar craft:

  • Establishment of solar villages for social impact, awareness creation and training
  • Revolving Fund to finance products for end users
  • Training for solar technicians in technology, management and finance

Sendea bundles the successful programs of the Foundation to a new, holistic and dual development program for young entrepreneurs.

 

Who can become a fellow of Sendea?

  • Founder of solar companies, incorporated in a developing country of (East-)Africa or (South/East-)Asia

  • Business approach:
    - Technology-agnostic: neither daughter company nor exclusive distributor of a manufacturer 
    - Offer full power access for off-grid people through decentralized solar energy solutions 
    - Follow a customer oriented approach: wide range of products, not just small plug&play 
    - Ensure reliable after-sales-service and maintenance

  • Personal requirements: CEO and/or founder with practical experience in solar energy technology

 

Benefits

As soon as the applicant successfully passes the application process, he starts with the "Blue Fellowship". Goal of the "Blue Fellowship" is to reach a stable situation for the company after latest two years. This stable status gives not only investors and suppliers confidence for cooperation, but also the entrepreneur itself: he is in best way prepared to let the company grow. This makes the jobs at this company reliable. 

 

A. Support in Practice

  • Realisation of a solar village with around 100 households for awareness creation and training on the job
  • Revolving Fund for end user finance 
  • Executive training (internship): 4-6 weeks of internship in an advanced solar company
  • Field training for staff: Training at work through experts from solar companies 

 

B. General support

  • Executive mentoring over two years. 
  • Capacity building / Technical assistance / Business support
  • Exchange with solar entrepreneurs (experience, knowledge)
  • Eased access to products with better payment conditions
  • Support for investment strategy and investor search

 

Start and information

Sendea started in September 2015. The first fellows are promising entrepreneurs in Uganda and Cambodia. More information: www.sendea.org