Modern energy solutions by women for women
In Kenya, 90% of households lack access to modern energy and clean cooking services. Women in rural areas, who heavily rely on traditional sources of fuel to meet cooking and heating needs, are especially negatively impacted. They are exposed to high levels of indoor air pollution and spend up to 50% of their disposable household income on kerosene and charcoal. Despite new technologies existing on the market, these are often inaccessible, unaffordable or unknown where they are needed most.
Bidhaa Sasa (“Products Now” in Swahili) aims to pave the way for off-grid energy access and other household and farm goods in rural areas, by making modern energy solutions accessible and affordable. The Kenyan start-up combines last-mile distribution with in-house credit in a one-stop shop for customers, offering a wide range of products including solar lamps and systems, efficient cookstoves, LPG kits and farm equipment that can improve incomes and standards of living. Considering that many women in rural areas do not have a regular income or credit history and are therefore largely excluded from formal financial institutions and services, Bidhaa Sasa’s clients can purchase products in mutually-liable groups and pay with mobile money in monthly instalments. Direct selling techniques – by women for women – to deliver goods directly to clients’ doorsteps, allow the company to leverage women’s social networks, thereby overcoming typical distribution barriers and building a brand based on trust.
Bidhaa Sasa approached the GET.invest Finance Catalyst in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. With markets, churches, schools and other large gathering places closed, the company had lost access to their main marketing channels and was facing difficulties in identifying new customers. The GET.invest Finance Catalyst joined the start-up in reflecting on new channels, marketing materials and products, particularly targeting women smallholder farmers in need of products to support the agricultural value chain. The Finance Catalyst advisors also supported Bidhaa Sasa in preparing a successful application for Covid-19 emergency grant funding.
Straddling the agriculture, energy and clean cooking sectors, one of the company’s challenges was to appeal to traditional energy access investors. Together with the Finance Catalyst advisors, who have introduced the company to several impact financiers, Bidhaa Sasa is now working on closing €800k working capital round.
With the support of the GET.invest Finance Catalyst, Bidhaa Sasa received a USD200k grant from the REACT Kenya Relief Fund – launched by AECF with financial backing from Sweden. Discussions for working capital financing are ongoing, and an equity raise is planned for 2022.
Building on the support of a substantial network of partners, including the Clean Cooking Alliance’s Venture Catalyst and the Global Distributor’s Collective (GDC), Bidhaa Sasa is working towards an expansion of its product range and geographic reach. For the company’s growing client base, this means clean and reliable energy services and farm equipment will become increasingly accessible, easing rural life by supporting agricultural productivity and income-generation, freeing up time and money for education, work, and leisure, as well as strengthening women’s financial independence and inclusion.
Disclaimer: Support to the company is ongoing as of 06-2021. Projected results are subject to change.