Solving the Energy Crisis by Mobilizing Women Entrepreneurs
For the majority of women in Kenya, access to clean and renewable energy is not a common reality. Women are most affected by indoor air pollution, working over kerosene stoves and smoky fires to prepare meals for the family. Joyce Gema, founder and CEO of Boma Safi and a 2014 USADF Off-Grid Challenge Winner, is working hard to change that. Boma Safi, a woman-owned, woman-run company in Kenya, is an energy distribution business that both targets and mobilizes rural women to distribute and sell its array of solar-powered products and cook-stoves.
The “hub and spoke” model, devised by Joyce through her connections with 150 local Savings and Credit Organizations, allows rural women to sell products through an order and delivery system, without having to contribute start-up capital. “Women entrepreneurs have been disadvantaged without access to credit and a lack of skills to grow their businesses,” says Joyce. “Boma Safi empowers women to participate in our business model, without having to put up expensive capital.” With rural women at the cornerstone of its model, Boma Safi sells clean energy to those at the bottom of the consumer pyramid. Customers can purchase the products through village credit organizations, making high-quality solar products affordable to low-income families. Through Boma Safi’s model, women are both the distributors and end-user beneficiaries of high-quality renewable energy products.
Esther is one of Boma Safi’s top selling distributors. She sells Boma Safi products from her business in Kitengela district, an hour south of Nairobi. Esther runs a small beauty salon where she interacts with local women on a daily basis. Boma Safi recruited Esther to sell solar and energy products to her customers through its “hub and spoke” model. Now, Esther is earning an additional $45 a month, on top of her income as a hairdresser, and is selling clean energy products to rural women in Kitengela. With solar lamps and energy-saving cook-stoves, her customers can benefit from a cleaner cooking environment at home.
Esther’s story demonstrates that when given the right resources, women can be empowered to drive their businesses forward and provide themselves, their families and their communities with clean energy solutions.
With a $100,000 grant from the U.S. African Development Foundation, Joyce is establishing rural distribution hubs in five regions across Kenya. Joyce is looking towards the future, with plans to expand out of Kenya: “Success for me is providing a platform where I can work with other women to solve global challenges through homegrown solutions. When every household in Kenya in the five regions where we work is electrified and can use clean cooking fuel, then we will have achieved success.”
To read Joyce's full interview on how Boma Safi is empowering women, click here.