Solar Energy Lights Up Zambia

Photo by Rachel Couch for Power Africa

Photo by Rachel Couch for Power Africa

In Zambia, solar energy opens new possibilities for off-grid communities

After a World Bank power auction made Zambia the home of the most affordable grid-scale solar power in Africa, financiers are moving in to invest in the next hot spot of solar energy.

Zambia is attracting large-scale investment and financing, such as solar farms and solar-powered distribution plants. And thanks to a Power Africa partnership that leverages public resources and private capital, the Zambian Government is attracting solar power developers through low tariffs, an enabling regulatory framework, and flexible payment models.

But one of the biggest transformations in solar power is happening at the grassroots level. In Zambia, just 3 percent of the population in rural areas has access to energy. To reach these communities that are far from the national grid, local enterprises in the country are selling off-grid renewable energy technology to rural households, which is spurring economic growth.

The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), a Power Africa partner, funds African-owned enterprises, cooperatives and community-based organizations to build capacity and expand economic opportunities. In 2015, USADF expanded the Off-Grid Energy Challenge, a Power Africa Beyond the Grid partnership, to Zambia to invest in innovative energy enterprises working to provide energy access in rural communities.

Buntungwa Ventures Limited, a small solar enterprise in Luapula Province in northern Zambia, is one of those Challenge winners. Zambian-owned Buntunga Ventures is selling solar home systems to more than 400 households. Each system has a 15-50 watt capacity, enough for households to charge a cell phone, power a fan and turn on a lightbulb. After charging a low upfront cost, the company uses a pay-as-you-go model, allowing customers to gradually pay for their system over a period of time with mobile payments.

Many of the surrounding communities in Mansa district of northern Zambia live far from the national grid with few options for lighting their homes with national power. With a $100,000 grant, Buntungwa Ventures is leveraging its seed capital to boost operations, train female entrepreneurs, and sign agreements with mobile network operators to allow for the flexible pay-as-you-go model.

As solar energy becomes more affordable, more opportunities are arising to connect underserved communities to micro-grids.

Muhanya Solar Limited, another Off-Grid Energy Challenge winner, was awarded a $100,000 grant to build a solar-powered micro-grid to connect 60 families, many for the first time, to a consistent, renewable energy source powered by the sun. The 20 kW solar micro-grid in Sinda village in eastern Zambia will also power a school and local businesses, providing an economic spark for the rural community and proving a model for replication in other regions.

But perhaps most important are the ways in which entrepreneurs are using environmentally friendly innovations to power off-grid communities. SuperRich Energies Limited in southern Zambia is harnessing the power of both the Zambezi River and the sun. With its $100,000 Power Africa grant, SuperRich Energies, a Zambian-owned enterprise, is installing three innovative hybrid hydro-solar systems on the Zambezi, the first of twelve units that will ultimately generate up to 60 kilowatts of electricity for the surrounding villages. The systems utilize a unique floating turbine technology which floats on the surface of the river, minimizing both cost and environmental impact. With a solar-powered back-up system, this hybrid hydro-solar project demonstrates that there is a combination of ways that businesses like SuperRich Energies can turn on the lights for grassroots communities.

Energy access builds economic growth and activity, and these entrepreneurs are demonstrating that with affordable solar energy, local enterprises can run a business selling energy to low-income, rural households in Zambia. With solar innovations across the country, USADF is supporting Zambian enterprises both big and small to expand the solar market to communities living beyond the grid.


Founders of the Gulu Dairy Cooperative Society, Uganda

Founders of the Gulu Dairy Cooperative Society, Uganda

We can end hunger by 2030. The U.S. government’s drumbeat to raise global attention towards the elimination of hunger and poverty rings resoundingly, and everyone has been called upon to do their part.

The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) is a Feed the Future inter-agency partner working with Africa’s most rural and vulnerable populations to support everyone from African farmers to young entrepreneurs. We believe everyone should have a seat at the table and an opportunity to be a part of Africa's growth story. With over 70% of USADF’s grants in agriculture, USADF is committed to supporting African-led, African-driven solutions to ending hunger.

“Even if there is no food, you can give your child milk,” Jessica Otto, highlighting the nutritional value of the cooperative’s work in fighting hunger in northern Uganda.

USADF is driving dairy investments because it remains a transformational value chain to eliminate hunger and diversify the diets of women and children. The model of supporting African solutions is transformative and works across many of the countries in which USADF invests . In northern Uganda, USADF has partnered with Gulu Dairy Cooperative Society, a women’s dairy cooperative that has been a driver of change in the community since the end of the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgence. Seeking safe haven, the women found themselves living together in an internally-displaced persons (IDP) camp, trying to find ways to feed their families and themselves. With 7 founding members and 56 women, the group developed a business and invested in 1 cow. Today the Gulu Dairy women have a herd of cows, and they’ve transformed a dream into a formidable business where women own and maintain cows, manage a milk pasteurization plant, sell milk to the community and a range of value-added dairy products such as yoghurt.

Beatrice Abee said, “We are illiterate but we earn a salary thanks to this cooperative,” while another dairy farmer added, “… we wear happy and proud faces, not faces of victims of war”.

And as Gulu’s post-conflict communities stabilize, the Gulu Dairy Cooperative Society women have secured their own livelihoods. Rose Olea, who joined the cooperative in 2008, makes 350k Uganda shillings ($104) a month in dairy sales. With her income, she has installed a biogas stove through Green Heat (another USADF Power Africa grantee); built a house; and earned respect from her husband for earning an income and contributing to the household.

At USADF’s core, all work must be African-centered in approach and solutions.  Customized specifically for each community, USADF’s local technical assistance works with farmers to take a community approach towards solutions to tackle food insecurity. From driving dairy to planting seeds, USADF leads by listening to local solutions. For example, Hope Development Initiative (HDI) in northern Uganda is a women-led, women-owned rice cooperative in Lira district that struggled for years to make sure there were enough seeds for the next season. After partnering with USADF, HDI has a revolving fund with its cooperative members so they borrow money for the next harvest’s seedlings, and ensure that there is always something to eat. With USADF funding, HDI also purchased a tractor, and leveraged savings to purchase a second, in order to increase yields and production.

Nearly 9,000 cooperative farmers, all of which are women, have been able to produce more bags of rice a year, not only seeing a higher standard of living but are feeding their families. Katie Obote, a member of the group since 2013, started with one acre of land and soon grew her land to over 10 acres. “Before I grew a variety of crops, but had little success with them. Since joining HDI, I have seen many improvements in my life.” Last year, she sold 200 bags of rice and used her profits to buy a cow, buy a motorcycle, and send her children to school. One of HDI’s founding members, Agnes Apea maintains that HDI has proved that farming can be a business, and that the community no longer needs loan or donations, but businesses.

As we commemorate Feed the Future week, USADF applauds the many African farmers, cooperatives and community-based organizations and businesses that promote country-driving solutions and ingenuity in the fight to combat food insecurity. Nations that are food secure are more likely to be peaceful and prosperous, and achieve other goals such as clean water, gender equality and universal primary education. As a member of the Feed the Future Initiative, and the U.S. government’s overall global food security agenda, USADF will continue to invest in and partner with communities to end global hunger and sow the seeds of peace and prosperity for all.


World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

As we work to end the terrible practice of human trafficking around the world, USADF challenges you to support groups like WAR and SOHASCO. In total, USADF supported each of these partner’s success with less than one million dollars. That is impact, and that is a shining example of how working with African-led organizations on African solutions can ensure future sustainable prosperity. USADF remains committed to providing Africans the resources and skills to be part of their own development story in fighting against human trafficking.

Ramadan, June 5 - July 5: Eid Mubarak! Happy Eid al-Fitr!

Today, Muslims around the world celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan. For one month, June 5 to July 5, Muslims performed several prayers a day and fasted from dawn to dusk as a period of spiritual discipline. The month now ends with Eid al-Fitr, or "the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, " a large celebration featuring a feast and gift exchange.[1]

The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) partners with many countries with a majority population that is Muslim, including but not limited to, Senegal, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. In each of these countries, USADF funds projects that help alleviate hunger and poverty for marginalized and underserved communities. This African-led development encourages Africans to be directly involved in writing their future prosperity.

In Senegal and Mauritania, USADF is on the frontier, where women are breaking ground in the agriculture sector post-conflict. We highlight these country programs in honor of Ramadan, as Senegal’s population is 92% Muslim and Mauritania’s is 100%.

Women of Section Villageoise de Thilène, located near St. Louis, Senegal, own 10 acres of land in a region where no women have claim to land. In an organization of 321 members, the seven plots of land are divided so that five are assigned to men and youth, and the other two are designated for the women. The group grows peanuts, tomatoes, onions, and rice, and has installed their own sprinkler irrigation system.

Starting as a small group of rice producers in the village in 1960, Thilene had hopes of expansion and prosperity. They acquired new land, but it was dry and far from the water, limiting any potential successful production. Not giving up hope, they decided to build a canal from the river. But even then they produced no tangible results because the canal did not function properly.

Thilene finally reached their goals when they put in place an efficient irrigation system with the help of their USADF grant in 2014. The canal now allows them to benefit not only themselves, but a larger community of farmers who pay rent to access the water supply. This brings increased profits, and more prosperous food production across the country.

“The project funded by USADF allowed us to believe in our dreams of seeing the cultivation of the stretch of dry land,” said Amadou Kane, a member of Thilene. Now, Kane claims the group is said to be a “model in all the fields in the rural community of Diama,” and they are “always the spearhead of innovation.” 

Similarly, women in the Coopérative Agricole Falo Kone, located near Rosso, Mauritania, also work in gender-separated garden plots and are looking to expand to cross-border exchange. Made up of 81 members, 37 of which are women, Falo Kone grows rice, onions, tomatoes, okra, and cabbage.

Falo Kone was affected by the Mauritania-Senegal Border War of 1989, when their members were forced to find exile in Senegal as their village was victim to lynch mobs and police brutality. Even post-conflict, when it was safe to return home, they were left with no land. To maintain social order, the government provided them with 56 acres, but the land was far from any source of irrigation and production was impossible.

“We experienced hunger, and we had to do day labor in neighboring fields to nourish our families,” said Malick Gueye, the president of the cooperative.

In 2013, the Mauritanian government dug a 4km canal, but it dried out in a year, leaving Falo Kone and other farmers still with no means of providing food for their community. This forced young boys to leave home searching for jobs and younger children to help in the fields or take care of animals.

A year later, the cooperative partnered with USADF to redo the canal, develop the field, purchase inputs and equipment, and create management training. That same year, they produced 24 acres of rice and 7.4 acres of vegetables, and the women grew 5 acres of vegetables.

“Our nightmare was over. We could sleep peacefully without worrying about what we will eat tomorrow, or where we will get water for irrigation,” Malick said.

Today, two years later, their canal has never dried out. Their profit increase from USADF funds allowed Falo Kone to renovate houses, build new houses, pay for education for their children, and buy animals to expand their products to include milk and meat. The women have also been able to buy clothes for their children, all their household needs, medicines, shoes, and jewelry.

If we travel over to Burkina Faso, where 60.5% of the population is Muslim, we see the power of women to create fruitful projects that have expanded to reach the global market. Association des Femmes Tisseuses de Ponsomtenga (AFEPO) makes woven textiles to use for clothing, such as belts and wraps, and their project also includes literacy training and empowers women leaders to take control. Since being awarded a USADF grant in 2013, their work has been featured on runways in Milan, New York, and Paris through the United Nation’s Ethical Fashion Initiative.

AFEPO’s President, Alimata Ouedraogo, says that in addition to their global success, there is a strong demand from their local market. The women in this group are able to earn monthly salaries to support their families. Their accountant Josephine says she receives no financial support from her family, but the money she earns from the weaving group allows her to raise her three children.

USADF is committed to funding projects like these three groups of successful women. During this holy time for Muslims, we recognize and celebrate their hard work and achievements, fighting poverty in post-conflict regions. USADF helps marginalized communities in Africa be a part of their own success story. Our funds encourage communities to find a solution to their challenges and implement them, enhancing capacity building for present and future prosperity.

Thanks to partnerships with USADF, women across the continent are on the frontier of their own progress towards equality by participating in projects that increase their income, expand their produce, and support their family and community for long-lasting effects.




Africa’s Impact Entrepreneurs Driving Change and Innovation

2015 YALI Entrepreneurship Award Winners. USADF supports African entrepreneurs who are solving problems in their communities with innovative business models..

2015 YALI Entrepreneurship Award Winners. USADF supports African entrepreneurs who are solving problems in their communities with innovative business models..

The U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) believes in African entrepreneurs who are helping to write Africa’s development story. These leaders are putting ideas into action, tackling challenges, and finding solutions for their communities with innovative ideas. Start-ups have been key to Africa’s economic future, and USADF is committed to providing the seed capital and technical support to growing enterprises.


This week, President Obama will host the seventh annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA, June 22-24, 2016. GES is a reflection of the U.S. government’s commitment to utilize entrepreneurship as a foundational tool to build more economically prosperous, secure, and globally connected communities around the world.

Similarly, USADF provides working capital and technical expertise to growing African businesses year-round, bringing together investors and promising African entrepreneurs across the continent. These young men and women are creating jobs, innovating to solve problems, and catalyzing new economic opportunities in Africa.


Take Daisy Muthamia, for example. Daisy is a 2015 YALI entrepreneur and a co-founder of Strauss Energy. With $25K in seed capital from USADF, Daisy is working to develop a solar roofing tile to power electricity in Murang’a Country in central Kenya at Gaitheri Secondary School. This locally designed and produced tile will generate energy for a classroom, allowing students more time to study and the school to engage students in computer and technology studies. With fifteen powered computers and projectors, students at Gaitheri School will be computer-literate and keep up with fast-paced technology in the 21st century.


Social entrepreneurs are a key lever for catalyzing economic development and creating a market where there often is none. They provide small scale assistance and vision for promising social and transformative projects that empower communities towards resilience and local ownership. For example, Andrew Amara is an urban planner and the founder of Town Build, an affordable housing solution for peri-urban populations in Uganda.  Andrew leveraged a $25K YALI Entrepreneurship grant to build a prototype of a sustainable, affordable, and progressive house for low-income families around Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. With a successful prototype in place, Andrew is now working to scale and expand his affordable housing projects to urban poor across Uganda.


USADF is committed to unlocking the potential of entrepreneurship and local enterprises to encourage economic growth – creating a sustainable approach to development with potential to achieve lasting impact. USADF prides itself on these partnerships, investing over $2M in young leaders across 26 countries and 10 sectors, and $5 million dollars to 50 African energy entrepreneurs in the Power Africa Off-Grid Challenge. 


This year’s GES will focus on innovations that exist all over the world, not just in urban areas. People are using technology to solve big problems that exist across the whole country and globe, from healthcare to energy, to transportation and food security. USADF supports African entrepreneurs, and their future, like that of the African continent, is promising.


For more information on the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, visit