Meet Elias, General Manager at Solafrica
Why do you do what you do?
At Solafrica, we aim to promote solar energy in the global south to reach two goals: first, we want to help people get access to reliable and payable electricity. We are mainly active in rural Africa where about half a billion people still live without any electricity grid. People without electricity suffer from disadvantages in many areas of their daily lives, e.g., education, health care, economic development, democratic participation, security, gender inequality, and many more. At the same time, we want to make sure the growing energy demand can be met in a sustainable and climate-friendly way. Solar energy is the perfect solution because it can be used without energy grid, it is scalable, and of course, it is difficult to run out of sunshine in Africa.
What does (Social) Sustainability mean to you and your organization?
Through our projects, we want to promote sustainable development of the communities in rural Africa. We aim to have a combined impact of enhancing economic and social development and at the same time protecting the natural environment. This is how we push sustainability.
Who inspires you most?
There is already a lot of movement in this sector: many companies have come up with pay-as-you-go solutions as an answer to the high investment costs at the beginning. People in more developed countries are used to paying their electricity bills at the end of the month. People without electricity grid need to invest a lot of money to buy a solar plant in order to then benefit from free energy. Unfortunately, many people cannot afford these high costs. So, companies have developed technical solutions where people can make a small payment every month over their mobile phone to pay off their solar plant on a monthly basis. Such innovations are very inspiring.
“Looking at the results of our projects, we distinguish between output, outcome, and long-term impact. While it is (more or less) easy to measure the direct output of our project, it is quite difficult to measure what impact we generate in the long term.”
“Solar energy is the perfect solution because it can be used without energy grid, it is scalable, and of course, it is difficult to run out of sunshine in Africa.”
How do you guarantee success of your sustainability measures?
That is always a big question in international cooperation. Looking at the results of our projects, we distinguish between output, outcome, and long-term impact. While it is (more or less) easy to measure the direct output of our project, it is quite difficult to measure what impact we generate in the long term. Also, it takes a lot of effort to measure this with robust data. As a small but steadily growing organization, we are always trying to find ways to measure our impact with our given resources. At the moment, we are developing a monitoring and evaluation system that we can apply to all of our projects. For this, we are also trying to cooperate with other organizations that work on the same issues.
What are your organization’s goals for the next year in terms of sustainability?
There is so much that still needs to be done until we will have secured access to climate-friendly energy for everyone on this planet. Therefore, we aim to increase the amount and impact of our projects to increase the benefit generated through them and help more and more people get out of energy poverty all while protecting the climate and our planet.