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Jeremy Leggett in Kenya Part II

SolarAid chairman Jeremy Leggett spends a second day with the SunnyMoney team in Kenya. Read on to hear his reflections on a day spent delivering solar lights to head masters and mistresses, and the sales pitch that won over the Coca-Cola shop keeper too. 

Cheptongwe, Kenya, 4 February 2014.

We drive two hours northeast of Eldoret, most of it crawling 30 km down a rutted red dirt road into low hills. The windows are up, but it is impossible to keep the dust out. My nose begins to clog. The dust smears make the land cruiser look as though it is rusting away.
We come to a village called Cheptongwe, two ranks of ramshackle concrete, mud brick, wood and corrugated iron buildings along the red road. Picturesque slopes of woodland and maize field rise on either side. At the far end of the village, we pull into a grass yard in front of a no less ramshackle building.

This is the headquarters of the Chebiemit Division of the Kenyan Ministry of Education. Here we will deliver solar lights to headmasters and headmistresses who have placed earlier orders via the SunnyMoney call centre. The Division chief is waiting for us, and takes us into his office. On the wall is a handwritten notice offering the Vision of the ministry that employs him. It makes an admirable read. ‘To have a globally competitive quality education, training and research for Kenya’s sustainable development.’ On his desk is a copy of Education News. ‘Top 1,000 schools in 2013’, the headline reads. Inside are articles with photos of star teenage pupils held shoulder high by proud parents.

All around me, amid the poverty, I see evidence of how seriously education is taken: how hard people are trying, amid the poverty. Head teachers begin to arrive. Hudson of SunnyMoney distributes boxes and bags of solar lights from the open back doors of the land cruiser. A third of the heads have already paid, via M-pesa. Others bring cash. Jamie, a funder travelling with us, disappears for a while, and reappears with a crate of Coca-Colabottles, purchased from a concrete shack across the road.  He disperses bottles to pleased headteachers as they queue. The logo-emblazened red plastic box is soon empty.

I look at it reflectively. Coca-Cola was the first company to crack distribution channels to a mass market in Africa. I have been trying to entice the giant corporation into some kind of partnership with SolarAid and SunnyMoney for a while now. The deal, as I pitch it, would be that they give us access to their channels, and we give them brand value-added because of the social good we can do with solar lighting. No luck yet, but I continue to live in hope, and send occasional missives to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta telling them as modestly as I can all about our progress.
Anyway, I tell myself, who knows, if we keep growing as we have these last six months, maybe it won¹t be too long before they are wanting access to our channels.

Now the headteachers are being joined by ordinary citizens, wondering what all the fuss is about. Among them is the storekeeper from the Coca-Cola shack, dragged across the road by Jamie. The team are giving quick basic seminars in how the lights work. After only a minute of sales talk, the shopkeeper buys the most powerful model, a Sun King Pro able to charge a mobile as well as light a room.

Jamie is thrilled. So that¹s what you mean by upselling, he says. The Kenyans laugh. But he is making a serious point. These deliveries do involve bigger and bigger models of solar lights over time. As money is saved, and confidence in the product grows. And crucially, our follow-up field research is showing that 83% of customers are recommending solar lights to friends. This is how it works. This is the SunnyMoney Way.

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