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How Namene Does things Differently

As Country Director for Namene in Zambia, I’m sharing the lessons we have learned and the strategies that have enabled our success deploying solar lights to some of the most remote communities in Africa.

Around 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa still don’t have energy access at home –  11 million of them in Zambia. Connecting these people to light and power and supporting them to live sustainably is Namene’s purpose. In Zambia alone, we have already delivered over  725,000 solar lights to over 1.2 million people

Working in Zambia can be challenging. Much of the population lives rurally, in towns sparsely spread across difficult terrain, and many have insecure or low-incomes. Yet this is exactly why Namene entered the market. For years, communities here have relied on kerosene lamps and candles as their only source of lighting and know all too well the risks and costs associated with such dangerous and toxic fossil fuel lighting. 

Zambia was Namene’s first carbon project, which has since seen almost a quarter of a million solar lights delivered across all ten provinces since 2021. This rapid growth was underpinned by our trailblazing strategy to make solar lights affordable and accessible to all. 

Understanding the carbon value of a solar light 

Namene was an industry leader in understanding the carbon savings solar lights could unlock. By tapping into carbon finance as a way to subsidise the cost of our lights for end-users, we have been able to give over one million Zambians their first step on the clean energy ladder. 

Making truly affordable, low-cost, high-quality solar lights breaks the barrier of affordability, something that our customers say they have never had before. In doing this, we have managed to achieve a 90% market share in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, where our carbon projects first began. 

Affordability is the foundation of our strategy. But the delivery and distribution to off-grid communities also requires long-term relationships built on trust. 

Namene Community Agents in Zambia help distribute solar lights in remote regions.

Building Trust in a Community

Reaching remote, rural customers nationwide is only possible with the support of our community agents.  

We work with sales agents who are a part of the fabric of their community. They act as our representatives and boots on the ground who understand their neighbour’s needs, constraints and values.

“By working with these local community agents in these last-mile locations, rather than using a Lusaka-based team, our products are in the heart of the towns and villages where they are needed. Working with existing structures cuts distribution times and makes logistics more efficient and has helped us rapidly reach high levels of market penetration across a huge geographic region.”

Selecting our community agents is a rigorous process. They must be a trusted member of their hometown, and have good communications skills. Young people and recent school leavers are often ideal community agents, not least because students are some of the key beneficiaries of our products, using our solar lights to study after dark. 

We empower these young people by teaching them basic accounting, using technology and entrepreneurial skills and giving them support to devise their own sales strategies within their communities, based on their own first-hand knowledge of their villages and towns. 

Schools as community hubs,  and teachers as pillars of their community, often provide support for our sales agents and help us identify which young people would benefit from working with Namene. Their regular contact with families who purchase our products also means it is easy to gather feedback and customer surveys as well as repair or replace lights if they are damaged. 

Empowering Community Agents in Long-term Partnerships

I have heard directly from our community agents about how positive their experience working with Namene has been.

They tell me they have been able to provide safe, clean and affordable lighting for their families and communities for the first time. They have tapped into a new income stream and learned new skills through our training, like using smartphones to record data – many of which for the first time. 

These are opportunities that are life-changing for our agents and can significantly impact their future career outlook. Rather than having to make the expensive move to an urban area to boost their earning prospects, they can do so in their own village now that Namene has opened up new doors for them. 

Since 2021, Namene has worked with over 700 community agents in Zambia alone. We nurture these relationships with our agents in a move that is mutually beneficial both for agents, customers and our carbon project certifiers – who can more easily conduct surveys and maintain regular touch points with product users through our agents. 

Decent work and economic growth is one of the Sustainable Development Goals our projects contribute and our long-term relationships and continued development of our agents makes this possible. 

Moreover, we recognise that achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 – energy access for all is a collaborative effort. Our partners, community agents, operations team and carbon credit buyers all help bring this goal closer by scaling energy access in last-mile communities. 

Are you a distributor interested in partnering with Namene? get in touch directly to empower more communities together: