Health and Electricity in rural Tanzania

Health and Electricity in rural Tanzania

TanzaniaSomerville, United States
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We are a small rural electrification consultancy that has partnered with a Tanzanian solar retailer/installer and the Tanzanian Ministry of Health. Our project is to install small DC solar lighting systems at various off-grid rural Tanzanian medical dispensaries to provide health and lighting services. This project will become sustainable through the revenue from cell phone charging services.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Like much of Sub Saharan Africa, less than 3% of rural households in Mbinga and Tunduru are connected to the electrical grid. The paucity of modern energy in rural Tanzania poses a number of environmental, economic, gender and health issues, such as deforestation, the burden on women and children in collecting and buying firewood, and smoke inhalation. There have been a number of efforts to implement projects to increase electrification in Tanzania’s rural areas. This need is especially acute when it comes to the needs rural medical dispensaries, for many Tanzanians they are the only health facilities available. But without electricity they are not able to use microscopes to diagnose Malaria, refrigerate vaccines and other drugs, and perform evening deliveries and other procedures.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

n 2010 ENSOL Tanzania Ltd. was chosen from over 80 received proposals to implement a rural electrification and health care project by The Rural Energy Agency, an organization supported by the government of Tanzania and the World Bank. Ensol was awarded $99,800 to install solar pv systems in 20 dispensaries in both the districts of Mbinga and Tunduru in Ruvuma Region. These installations would power a microscope for diagnosing malaria, a small fridge for storing vaccines, and also generate revenue from cell phone charging to pay to accommodate a community health care provider. Further, through implementing this project ENSOL trained local technicians how to install and maintain solar PV systems, thus supporting local employment.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our Tanzanian team, a well established solar installation business, would identify off-grid rural dispensaries that cater to sizeable populations and also have significant ensolation (sunlight). Then, through our partnership with the ministry of health and local government officials as in the successful pilot, we would agree to install solar panels and electrify that dispensary. Once electrified the dispensary will also charge the market rate for cell phone charging. The income from the cell phone charging operations will then be remitted, via mobile banking, to a separate bank account and used to further fund the scalinf of the venture and also support health workers in the rural community.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Most solar installers in the region are based in commercial centers such as Arusha and Dar es Salaam. There are other NGO's that operate around the region providing installations but not at with the sustainability nor rate to fully engage the need or stimulate local employment.

Founding Story

I was working at the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association promoting its networking and advocacy efforts as well as exploring the issue of the financing of off-grid electrification. I learned through my research and interactions with various local, national and international stakeholders was that the rural electrification problem was tied to the lack of entrepreneurial capacity, high interest rate and short maturities on commercial loans and the expense building transmission lines in a highly dispersed poor rural population. ENOSL, a leading solar installer of very high repute, had just won a business plan competition that sought to alleviate the problem of under electrification at rural health dispensaries. I realized that the provisioning of energy had to be tied to some economic activity for it to be sustainable and replicable (cell phone charging) and I saw benefit of the synergy public-private partnership in ENSOL's pilot. We then agreed to combine forces and scale its efforts.
About You
Opportunity Developers Inc.
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Opportunity Developers Inc.

Organization Country

, MA, Somerville

Country where this project is creating social impact

, RV

Age of Innovator


Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to financing, Access to technology, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

The initial pilot resulted in the installation of solar panels in 40 dispensaries in the Tunduru and Mbinga regions. The revenue from the cell phone charging has resulted in a revenue of approximately $7,500 in under 8 months. Overall Impact: Improved provision of health services in the two districts; Improved malaria screening capacity
improved maternal and infant mortality, and emergency services by replacing kerosene and candles with electric bulbs for delivering babies; reduced indoor fire risk; reduced indoor air pollution; less reliance on gasoline or kerosene which is intermittently available.
The solar installations power a microscope for diagnosing malaria, a small fridge for storing vaccines, provide light and also generate revenue from cell phone charging to provide support for the provisioning of health care. Further, ENSOL Ltd. has also trained local technicians how to install and maintain solar PV systems, thus supporting local employment.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Over the next three years the project would electrify every off-grid rural health center and dispensary in Tanzania (~5000) and trained an electrical technician to provide technical support for each of the installations. Our model is also open to serving rural schools, libraries as well as other CSO's and NGO's operating in off-grid areas. This, in turn creates more opportunities for the solar technicians we train and further's the use of renewable energy rather than non-renewable biomass energy.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Thus far one of the main challenges has been transportation difficulties, especially where the roads are ill maintained. This challenge may be overcome through further reconnaissance on the sites that are chosen for installation. Another issue has been access to the necessary equipment that is often imported through a foreign supplier. This issue will be mitigated by also engaging more local retailers rather than only those that service Dar es Salaam. Another challenge is the business risk of the phone charging revenue. This risk may be mitigated by negotiating "franchise-like" agreements with the district medical officers in which the dispensaries keep the revenue but monthly payments are made to us.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

At 6 months we will have completed at least 10 installations that serve their respective communities and generating revenue.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

We will have engaged the respective District Medical Officers (DMO) where we plan to install.

Task 2

We will have negotiated public-private partnership agreements with DMO's.

Task 3

We will have contacted local technicians and finalized logistics for each of the four day installations and trainings.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

The revenue from each site will have been carefully collected and monitored.

Task 2

We would have partnered with at least one rural educational organization, CSO, or NGO as a pilot.

Task 3

We would have secured the necessary financing to ensure further installations for the following year.

Tell us about your partnerships

We have a partnership with the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA), a member based organization which represents the renewable energy private sector in Tanzania.
We also seek to take advantage of our collaboration with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and their network of district and regional health officers.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list