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There is a need for off-grid affordable lighting solutions to tackle the lack of access to electricity in rural poor areas around the world. In Sierra Leone over 95% of the population has no access to the electric grid. The absence of electric light imposes great obstacles to the social and economic development of the country—particularly in rural areas—limiting such essential activities as education and production. Rural dwellers spend up to 10% of their incomes on expensive and dirty solutions, such as kerosene lamps. The harmful gases emitted by these lamps contribute to the incidence of diseases that kill nearly two million children in developing nations each year. Our target customers cannot afford the high initial costs required to switch from kerosene to better solutions. They can only afford small daily or weekly amounts for light and therefore need a business model that offers them access to light and adapts to their spending patterns.
Luma Light’s team has been working with entrepreneurs in rural Sierra Leone for over four years. In the summer of 2011, the team carried out a pilot developing a rental market of rechargeable lights reaching more than 100 homes. The success of this pilot led to the expansion of the enterprise over January 2012. Based on these two experiences, our plan is to scale operations further, making light affordable for millions starting in Sierra Leone. Luma Light sells appropriate lighting technology to rural entrepreneurs who rent out the lights on a nightly basis for a fee to customers. This daily fee is lower than what customers currently pay for expensive and dirty lights. Luma Light has successfully scaled up operations in Yele, a rural town in Sierra Leone where the original pilot was executed. We have strong ties with the local community and with influential international organizations working in the area. The business model was fine-tuned in Yele over January 2012 and is now ready for the expansion phase in the broader Gbonkolenken region. Yele resembles over 100 towns in Sierra Leone and hundreds more around West Africa, underlining our potential for growth.