Our partners:

Do we really need GOGLA, the new "Global Off-Grid-Lighting Association"?

In 2012, seven partners founded GOGLA as an off-grid association: D.Light, Energy For Opportunity, Greenlight Planet, Osram, Philips, SunTransfer and TOTAL. GOGLA was initiated by World Bank/IFC to transfer main duties and responsibilities of the program "Lighting Africa" to an independend industry association for progression, leadership and long-term sustainability. 

But, frankly, do we really need this association?

Since long time the off-grid sector is a sector with no structure, no significant opinion leader, no standards for products, installation, maintenance, recycling, and no regulation - neither legal nor ethical. A lot of people and organisations are doing a lot of different things. Everybody wants to be the best, the one with the most exciting approach or product. 

When "Lighting Africa" started, this initiative supported already existing efforts worldwide to replace kerosene lamps by mobile solar lanterns. The advantage of "Lighting Africa" was to bring this topic on schedule of several international conferences, to build an informational network and to start at least a rudimentary quality testing. 

As a consequence, first social investors invested in manufacturers of solar lanterns, millions of lanterns were brought to rural areas worldwide and the understanding started that a huge economic market was growing. 

A legion of designers now starts to develop new portable solar lights - but the people at the base of the economic pyramid often want very different things: for example, a television or a fan or a tablet pc. Or they just want to have a fixed lighting system to improve their livelihood. The problem which raised soon was and still is, that what low-income people want and are willing to buy, is not always what is being offered and delivered. 

That's why - beside all merits of the Lighting Africa program - the continuous problem is that the managers of this program didn't and still don't realise that distribution of small solar lanterns has nothing to do with covering the energy demand of low-income-people. Lanterns are just the first step - the door opener to a huge world of energy supply. It is still the ongoing disadvantage of "Lighting Africa" to keep mobile lighting as the main focus. In difference to other initiatives, for example the "Sustainable energy for all campaign" of the UN Foundation. And, frankly spoken, nowadays the continuous focus on solar lantern is not only a disadvantage, this focus of Lighting Africa already hinders the industry and the market.

Considering this, my questions are:

  • Who is the organisation setting standards for quality for all lighting products, not just lanterns? 
  • Who is providing relevant market data for management decision and for investors? 
  • Who ensures that customers in off-grid areas get risk-free and not just cheap products? 
  • Who is reminding that sustainability includes waste collection and recycling - especially concerning the millions of batteries we are bringing now to off-grid areas? 
  • Who is observing if there is planned obsolescence: reduction of service life of a device in order to force the customers to a new purchase at the earliest possible time.
  • Who sets a code of conduct in an off-grid sector with lot of different players with different interests and approaches?
  • Who ensures that projects of international organisations, such as World Bank/IFC or UN or EU, are not contra productive for the new industry?
  • Who is pushing, developing and implementing policies, which are made to enable economic development? 

My answer is clear: that’s exactly what GOGLA is meant for and why we need GOGLA. 

If we want that off-grid electrification becomes successful and self-sustainable, than this industry cannot depend on programs from World Bank/IFC or foundations or governmental organisations as relevant actors in this sector. This was understood by World Bank/IFC, therefore the idea of an inde-pendent industry association raised. And World Bank/IFC promised to support this association as the successor of Lighting Africa. 

Of course, it is difficult for old stakeholders in the new off-grid world to accept that an industry stands up and is no longer just re-active, waiting for governmental tenders, NGO campaigns or World Bank programs. And I fully understand that it is difficult to accept that the industry now has his own voice, his own opinion - and this opinion sometimes is different from others.

But finally there is no alternative that the industry takes over the full responsibility. And it is a big advantage of GOGLA that members are not only the manufacturers, but also distributors and other organisations who are close to customers in off-grid areas.

Dr. Harald Schützeichel is chairman of SunTransfer and Stiftung Solarenergie - Solar Energy Foundation

Send your comments here


Comment by Yotam Ariel on September 13, 2013

Great. I don't have any info, but perhaps Emmanuel (our Kenya customs clearance partner) does:

Mr. Emmanuel Kibe – Director – Apple Logistics Ltd.  
Phone: +254 20 2043288  //  Mobile: +254 722 524060
Email: ekibe@remove-this.hotmail.com


Comment by GOGLA on September 13, 2013

Be sure that GOGLA is aware of this issue and that we are discussing next steps to take in coordination with our partners and other stakeholders and will keep you updated. In the meantime it would be great if you could share all your information with us - like Rajaram said - we need to knwo how this happened, who pushed it etc. 


Comment by Rajaram Khanolkar on September 13, 2013

Dear Yotam...I just spontaneously responded to response from Gogla transferring your pointed question to Lighting Africa...so suggested let everyone start doing a bit without any delay...obviously if industry bodies / associations like Gogla and Lighting Africa, proactively lead from front it will make a lot of difference. I just spoke to my distributors and dealers and they are all surprised, have already started charging VAT and also trying to collect information as to why this happened and who were for and against this VAT decision...will share more information as & when I get it..


Comment by Yotam Ariel on September 13, 2013

Good idea, Raj. Who do think we should email/call/submit letter to? 


Comment by Rajaram Khanolkar on September 13, 2013

Challenge is for all of us and not only for Gogla or Lighting Africa.
Let us not wait and see who moves first...rather work together to generate awareness and pressure from all the corners to get the VAT exemption back.


Comment by Yotam Ariel on September 13, 2013

Indeed. Well, Lighting Africa team, what's your plan?

I'll gladly help if needed.


Comment by Harald Schützeichel on September 12, 2013

Good question, Yotam. I'm sure we will discuss internally what GOGLA can do.

But more than for GOGLA, it is a serious question to Lighting Africa: Lighting Africa is based in Kenya and they choosed this country as a sample to show the success of Lighting Africa's work. Now it is up to Lighting Africa to avoid that the progresses of the past are not lost. Great challenge for Lighting Africa!


Comment by Yotam Ariel on September 12, 2013

How is GOGLA addressing the recent VAT 16% levy on all solar products in Kenya?



Comment by
Johanna Diecker on July 24, 2013

Dear Harry and Yotam,
Thank you very much for your interest in GOGLA and your comments posted on Lumina Net. As you can tell from the diversity of our current members, GOGLA is an open organisation that encourages also small companies and organizations to participate and to have a voice in the process. To make membership possible for a wide range of stakeholders, we opted for a progressive Membership Fee Structure that grades companies according to their size and regional activities. In line with our policy of equal participation and fairness, all our members are contributing with their membership fee to the success of our organization. However; we would be happy to discuss membership or other cooperation opportunities with you. Please feel free to contact our Secretariat any time: info@gogla.org  

Kind regards,


Comment by Harald Schützeichel on July 12, 2013

Dear all,

Thank you for your engaged and intensive discussion of my article about GOGLA. Here some answers and comments from my side:

Fee: Yes, the fee is not small, but when we started GOGLA we opted for this type of fee because GOGLA needs to become financially sustainable. Now, we have nearly 30 members and the last AGM agreed to keep this membership fee structure. BUT: It is also a clear practice that members can apply for fee reduction in case the company is very small, a start-up or based in a developing country.

LA quality control: Lighting Africa (LA) did a great and needed job with the first quality checks and standards. But this was a first step! Today it is obvious that this test procedure needs to be improved, because it is focused on small products only, reflects only on lumen not on applications, it is complicated, costly and drawn-out. By the way: LA agrees with this, that is why there is a further development already ongoing!

LA starts to hinder the market: That is a known fact for lot of field workers. It is related to the fact that LA-listet products get in some countries special advantages (tax/duty), but since LA is only focused on small products the result is that bigger systems are handicapped.

Policy of World Bank/IFC: I fully agree that the activities of the World Bank/IFC are still much more focused on non-renewable energy sources. World Bank/IFC are definitely not really engaged on financing off-grid clean energy access. That is why twenty-two of the world’s leading off-grid clean energy entrepreneurs (including GOGLA!) demanded social bankability from the World Bank Group in the form of $500 million in risk-adjusted investment. To do such claims seriously it is very important that GOGLA becomes financially independent from the World Bank/IFC in mid-term. Otherwise, there will be easily a conflict of interests between the opinion of the off-grid-industry and the fear that the World Bank/IFC may withdraw its financial support as soon as GOGLA passes criticism on IFC activities. Because the one with the money makes the rule. Don't misunderstand me: It is a great step forward that IFC supports the establishment of GOGLA and is still willing to provide financial support. But it is also very important for the industry to become financially independent in mid-term.

Subsidies: Yes, non-renewable energy sources get a lot of subsidies. We should fight for equal rights for all energy sources. It can't be that import of diesel and kerosene is subsidised, while for solar products we have to pay high duties. To remind the World Bank/IFC and also national policy makers on this and to urge a permanent change of the current practice, we need an international association like GOGLA.

TV: The request for TV (or other devices for entertainment) is a good sample for the fundamental need to change our attitude to low-income-people. If we want to change something in the living conditions of the people at the base of the economic pyramid, then we must finally take them seriously as customers and not as beneficiaries of our ideas to alleviate poverty. We have to deliver what people request. And even if we are happy or not about this, TV is high requested in off-grid areas (sometimes even more than light!) because of different reasons, which I can't explain here in this short answer. Our duty is to provide renewable and sustainable energy solutions for all products which are requested and people can afford. Consequently, one main principle of our work should be not to confuse what people supposedly need with what they actually want!

Happy to continue the discussion!



Comment by Yotam Ariel on July 11, 2013

I agree with Harry. I wouldn't spend this money to join.But I will for sure be happy to contribute in non-monetary ways.


Comment by Harry Kikstra on July 11, 2013

Hello Ted,
how open is this organisation if small companies like ours (that are based in western countries, but are operating in several developing countries) appear to have an annual fee of USD $6000? That is something we simply never can afford and if we could, we'd prefer to light a few large villages with our solar light for those costs.
It seems that the entrance fees are too high, therefore limiting this potentially interesting organisation to a few large players.
I welcome your thoughts,
cheers, Harry (FlexiwaySolar.com)


Comment by Yotam Ariel on July 11, 2013

Interesting views, Alex.


Comment by Alex Place on July 10, 2013

Firstly great points in this article and certainly sparking a nice conversation! I would just like to comment on this: "If we want that off-grid electrification becomes successful and self-sustainable, than this industry cannot depend on programs from World Bank/IFC or foundations or governmental organisations as relevant actors in this sector." Oil companies receive BILLIONS of dollars every year in subsidies. There is no such thing as a free market, should not the rural electrification industry be able to benefit from the UN, Government organizations, etc??  

Thanks for your insight! And YES rural Guatemalans really want televisions, whether they can pay for them is another matter. Secondly, whether the path of consumption we lead them on is morally correct and truly sustainable is another matter. I have no doubt that small solar systems that included an energy effecicent television would SELL a lot, but is this very responsible? 


Comment by Ned Tozun on July 9, 2013

Hi everyone, given my new role in GOGLA, I've received some inquiries about this article from a couple of you in the LuminaNET community, and it seems there is a little confusion. So I just wanted to send a note to clarify that this blog post is not an official statement by GOGLA or necessarily representative of the views of the members. Rather this is a posting by Harald in his role as chairman of SunTransfer and is expressing his personal perspective, which I hope can spark a constructive dialogue.

Today, GOGLA is collaborating closely with IFC and the Lighting Global/Lighting Africa team to build on the good work they have done to date in significantly growing the market for off-grid lighting solutions in ways that are sustainable and market-enabling. We look forward to further developing and growing that collaboration.

Rajaram, to address your important question: yes, GOGLA is a neutral organization and we have very strict governance and voting processes to ensure all members have a voice in the process. We very much want GOGLA to represent all the key stakeholders in the space. With that in mind I would encourage all of you who are not yet GOGLA members and are distributing or manufacturing solar lighting products or are otherwise involved in building the market to sign up to become a member at www.gogla.org   Thanks and I look forward to working with all of you!


Comment by Oluseyi Adisa 
on July 9,2013

Nicely package right-up. What are the reasons of Philip and Osram in driving the GOGLA objectives?
I hope these objectives are not loaded with their corporate personal benefits? 


Comment by Salvatore Chester on July 8, 2013

Perhaps it would be fair also to add competition among all market players, as a central element on all this issues (too many in one page?). End-users pray for the "right products" to take hold in the local off-grid energy market, lighting and mobile charging to start with. LA and other supporting agents are, to me, doing a great job (just imagine there were no LA and its partners). Like the various non-profits trying to create the necessary awareness and advocating a paradigm switch to modern lighting and clean off-grid energy options. Indeed it takes utmost cooperation of every interested stakeholder if the chronic energy poverty is to be reduced significantly in the years to come. GOOGLA as an industry association could play an important role - pooling also non members - to supply and deliver to the local market (mere designing is not sufficient) the most competitive products, both in quality and price. Actual demand is there, its the suppliers who need to deliver in a competitive way. Thank you Harald for all your efforts. 


Comment by Rajaram Khanolkar on July 7, 2013

Is it a neutral organization for all the manufacturers interact or follow or the presence of one or two manufacturers as founding partners may skew it in their favor?


Comment by Evan Mills on July 6, 2013

I was puzzled by a number of points in this post, including:

~ One could interpret the characterization of Lighting Africa as understating much of what it does, at least if the bullet list is intended to identify areas currently not addressed by LA.... Characterizing LA as supporting "existing efforts" does rather short shrift to the full variety of activities, including direct support of real companies.

~ What is it about the existing Lighting Africa test standards that maps to the term "rudimentary", especially given a foundational principal is that test procedures not become so precise and costly that only the "big boys" will be able to afford the fees?

~ Readers will perceive inference that end users do not want and are not willing to buy solar "lanterns" (pico solar systems of various configurations, some of which may have a lantern type of form factor).  Certainly people want (and deserve) many end uses beyond lighting, but that is not equivalent to saying that dedicated lighting devices are inappropriate or not wanted by the market. Also, to be fair LA is already beginning to explore flat screen devices, and many LA-certified products already charge cell phones -- so LA is not a lighting-only initiative in the strict sense of the word...  I believe we are still waiting for release of the latest LA market report, which will update us all on the level of sales and growth -- I suspect that demand for these 'unwanted" products will be shown to have continued strong growth.

~ It appears that GOGLA plans to expand its efforts to cover a wide range of off-grid technologies.  Presuming this is so, why is name chosen for the organization focused only on "Lighting"


Comment by Salvatore Chester on June 28, 2013

Good article. 

In addition, in my view, the necessary market competition should be allowed to play its central role in the potentially huge micro-solar market. The dissemination of hundreds of millions of mobile phones including in rural Africa was and still is led by big multinationals competing among each other. Local customers are thus offered (and begged to buy) the best product at competitive prices. This could be a hint as to where the market of micro-solar for BOP is leading to, sooner or later.  I believe and hope that Lighting Africa, GOGLA, various NGOs and other players could continue to enable this huge market to stand on its own.  This is of course, do not include imposters of any sort. Best.

S. Chester



Comment by Yotam Ariel on June 27, 2013

Interesting, and nicely written. Thanks!