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Voice And Choice = Solar Revolution

“I use my time to educate other people about solar lights because it is a good product for home use. I saw it from my neighbour and I decided to buy it. It helps to reduce kerosene expenses.” Imelda Mpiluka, Tanzania

It has been an exciting year for SolarAid and SunnyMoney; reaching a million solar light sales and helping families invest in a brighter future. Yet as much as our teams have worked tirelessly to build markets and our supporters have created the opportunity for this to happen, it is pivotal to recognise the role that local communities have played in this achievement.

Millions of men and women across Africa who have bought solar lights and shared their stories with neighbours have been fundamental to this success. In Kenya, solar light customers told us that on average they recommend solar lights to another 25 people – providing critical peer to peer endorsement; while the engagement of local community leaders has spread the solar message from village to village.

SolarAid’s research teams engage with hundreds of people each week – we understand the needs of our customers and can work to provide the products they want. This constant feedback enables us to raise their voices with solar light manufacturers, drive pioneering programmes through our SunnyMoney Brains innovation unit and share their stories.

As the Impact Report 2014 released this week notes:

“Speaking to people in rural African communities helps us to find out about the lives of those we work to reach… We have learnt that families want to invest in economical lighting solutions that will save them money, improve their health, reduce risk of fires and enable their children to study at night”.

Parents do not want their children to miss out on opportunities by waiting for electricity grid lines that may never come – they want to be empowered to improve their futures, now. As Robert Msowoya, a farmer from Malawi explained:

“[Before the solar light] I had no choice but to buy paraffin which was very harmful to lives.”

Mr Msowoya now spends the money he saves on food, soap and school fees for his children who are able to study longer without coughing or eye irritations.

Over the next year, we will continue to learn what our customer’s need, innovate to improve access to the technology they demand and learn how we can best support the entrepreneurs building solar markets across Africa.

We also pledge to do more to channel the voices of our customers into the decision-making processes of governments, aid agencies, companies and NGOs.

Last month, at the Clinton Global Initiative we committed to building the alliance needed to eradicate the kerosene lamp. We want to use the power of collective action to make the most of this opportunity to improve lives across Africa today; bringing clean energy access to the forefront of the development agenda.

While it is vital that people are given the choice to improve their own lives, and critical that they are driving demand for clean, safe solar light, it is only when we work together – individuals, companies, NGOs and governments – that the power of all our voices will be heard.

On the 5th November SolarAid will be launching a campaign to raise funds, highlight the dangers of kerosene and profile those communities across Africa already building a cleaner, more sustainable, future.

Please join us by sharing the stories you read in this report with families and friends to add you voice; alongside the millions of African people who are already lighting the way.