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Burkina Faso

MEI in Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, the MEI works with Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe (HELP) and Énergie Développement lngénierie Services (EDIS) to provide a variety of energy services for Goudoubo camp. Overall, these activities will boost refugee livelihoods and food security and will improve access to energy and clean drinking water for camp residents and the local population.

MEI projects in Burkina Faso have so far:

  • Installed a solar-powered water pump, replacing a diesel-based generator, to provide clean drinking water for Goudoubo’s 10,000 residents;
  • Installed solar-powered irrigation systems for a vegetable production area which will provide livelihoods for 150 households;
  • Set up an energy service centre that provides entrepreneurs with fully equipped solar systems facilities from which they can access electricity 24 hours a day for a fee.

The MEI replaced a diesel-powered pumping station with a solar-powered pump that provides safe drinking water to camp residents. Now the water service is more reliable, less costly and better for the environment.

Building a market system for clean energy

The MEI is also working with the local private sector to develop local market systems for solar products including solar home systems. To secure their long-term access to energy, it is important to go beyond directly delivering energy services to refugees.

The MEI is therefore working to strengthen the whole system for energy access by improving information flow, market channels, customer financing and after-sales technical support.

Poor information and low-quality energy products are barriers to a thriving local market. For example, many clean energy providers are unaware that refugees can be a market for their products and services. In parallel, refugees do not know how to acquire information about reliable clean energy products or how to finance their purchase.

Our market systems development work has aimed to tackle this by:

  • Working with our partners to develop a catalogue listing all energy products available in Burkina Faso that comply with international quality standards;
  • Researching, together with Initiatives Conseil International, the financing options for energy products available to residents of Goudoubo and neighbouring Dori;
  • Identifying practical ways for energy companies to partner with financial institutions in order to increase the purchasing power of refugees and host communities in Burkina Faso;
  • Capturing examples of how energy companies and refugees can co-create product pricing and financing options to guide energy companies when they assess refugee preferences and market potential;
  • Developing engaging and creative marketing materials with EcoVentures International in order to help energy companies engage with refugees and rural communities and build long-term relationships;
  • Looking into how financial technology - ‘fintech’ - can help unlock constraints in the development of the solar market so there can be better access to solar systems among refugees and rural and other marginalized communities.

By bringing together refugees, host communities, energy companies, financial institutions and government agencies, the MEI aims to empower refugees as energy consumers and build a thriving market for clean energy products in Goudoubo camp and neighbouring communities.  

Refugees at the centre of clean energy market systems

Refugees need reliable, safe and affordable energy products. But they often lack information about how to access available products or how to assess whether the products are of good quality or not. They are often also disempowered from accessing energy products through the market if the same products are distributed for free by aid agencies. While free distribution might help refugees in the short-term, they do not last forever. Moreover, free distribution can damage the local private sector – including small traders and microenterprises of energy products who are also defined as ‘poor’.

As a result, the MEI decided to deliver a market systems development project to strengthen the whole system for energy access. This approach not only addresses energy access for refugees but also has direct and indirect benefits for other poor populations, such as marginalized rural host communities and urban microenterprise owners and services providers.

The MEI brought a group of energy companies to Goudoubo camp and neighbouring Dori camp and held clean energy events. At the events, both refugees and host communities learned about the different energy products that are available for cooking, lighting and powering devices such as mobile phones and sewing machines.

The MEI has developed a set of tools to ensure that the relationships between refugees, host communities, energy companies, banks and government agencies are long lasting. These include:

  • Cards to guide energy companies to maintain relationships with refugees after-sales are completed which help refugees use and maintain their products;
  • A guide for setting up ‘buyers clubs’ in refugee camps. This helps refugees understand how to group orders and save money. Energy companies can in turn use these clubs to stay in touch with camp customers;
  • A tool for energy companies when working with local radio stations in rural areas to reach refugees and with local shops to guide refugees on product features;
  • A training module for the repair and maintenance of small solar kits in order to ensure the local after-sales service of products.