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Agricultural Waste Generating Electricity

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Agriculture around the world produces a great deal of waste as a by-product. It can be animal faeces, or the discarded plant husks thrown away when rice, grains or maize are harvested. When this waste meets the urgent need for electricity, something special can happen.

The number of people still without electricity in the South is vast. The failure of major electricity generating power stations to reach so many people has spurred entrepreneurs to come to the rescue. Power is critical to so many things: small businesses need it, anyone wanting access to computers and the Internet needs it, and modern appliances like refrigerators run on it. During the past 25 years, electricity supplies have been extended to 1.3 billion people living in developing countries. Yet despite these advances, roughly 1.6 billion people, a quarter of the global population, still have no access to electricity and some 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass fuels, including wood, agricultural residues and dung, for cooking and heating. More than 99 percent of people without electricity live in developing regions, and four out of five live in rural areas of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (International Energy Agency, IEA).

Power outages in Africa are a serious and frequent problem and a significant force holding back development. With global oil prices on the rise, turning to diesel generators is an expensive option.

According to the IEA, the lack of electricity leaves poor countries “trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, social instability and underdevelopment.”

In India, 80,000 of the country’s half a million villages lack electricity. Two students, Charles Ransler and Manoj Sinha, have started a business providing electricity to some of these villages by turning rice husks – a by-product of rice milling – into gas that then powers an electricity generator.

Already, two of their rice-burning generators are providing electricity to 10,000 rural Indians. The hope is to rapidly expand the business to hundreds of small village power plants.

The business, Husk Power Systems, was started while the two were at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

While the generator burns the rice husks to make a gas to produce electricity, it also leaves behind a waste product of ash that is sold as an ingredient in cement.

This technology can provide off-grid power to rural Indian villages of 200 to 500 households. Using the husk-powered mini power plant, the team plans to offset close to 200 tons of carbon emissions per village, per year in India.

The idea for the rice husk generators was originally conceived by Sinha and Gyanesh Pandey, the third partner in Husk Power, who left an engineering career in Los Angeles to return to India and oversee the rice husk project. Sinha and Pandey went to college together in India and both come from rural Indian villages that struggle with a lack of electricity.

“We grew up in those areas,” said Sinha. “Our relatives still do not have electricity. We wanted to give back to those areas.” Originally they envisioned refining the generator concept and raising enough money to donate rice-husk generators for two or three villages near where they grew up, said Sinha.

But instead, after some research, they realised it could be a financially viable business expandable to hundreds of villages. There are 480 million Indians with no power and 350 million of them live in rural villages, concentrated in eastern India’s “Rice Belt,” where the villagers are “rice rich and power poor,” said Ransler.

The project has already won a fistful of prizes, including US$50,000 from the Social Innovation Competition at the University of Texas.

They think that each rice husk generator is to break even in about two and a half years.

And they like to think this is the Starbucks of off-grid electricity generation, potentially as successful as the globe-spanning US coffee shop chain. “You can put one of these in 125,000 locations, hire local people, and turn a raw material into money – just substitute rice husks for coffee beans,” said Ransler.

Another maker of biomass mini power plants in India is Decentralised Energy Systems India (DESI power). It is a New Delhi-based non-profit company specialising in building a decentralised power network for rural India. It was formed by Development Alternatives, India’s largest sustainable development NGO. It is able to provide a megawatt of electricity to a village for the cost of 44 million rupees, rather than 57 million rupees from the central grid.

Published: June 2008

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Successful Fuel-Efficient Cookers Show the Way

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

A Kenyan entrepreneur has cooked up a fuel-efficient stove and oven that uses less of a precious national resource: wood from trees.

Most African households using fuel-burning stoves either cannot afford clean-burning fuels like natural gas or electric stoves, or do not have access to them. They are stuck having to burn wood or other materials like animal dung – collectively called biomass – on open fires.

As well as using up wood and contributing to deforestation, there is another downside to these stoves. The use of polluting fuel-burning stoves by half the world’s population – including 80 percent of rural households – is a documented contributor to a host of health problems. Poor households not only have to contend with the ill health effects of dirty water and poor sanitation, the fumes from burning dung, wood, coal or crop leftovers lead to the global deaths of more than 1.6 million people a year from breathing toxic indoor air (WHO).

Two solutions in Kenya are helping people to cook more efficiently (meaning less time wasted on gathering material to burn, and less fuel used) and reducing cooking time by using heat more effectively.

Invented by Dr Maxwell Kinyanjui, the Kinyanjui Jiko is a fuel-efficient charcoal oven that comes in small, medium and large industrial sizes. Made entirely in Kenya, the ovens are custom designed for a variety of environments, from domestic household use and on-the-go safari models to high-capacity models for micro-enterprises and large institutions. Cooks can use the ovens to bake, toast, steam or boil. And they are 40 percent cheaper than cooking with electricity and between 15 and 20 percent cheaper than gas.

Kinyanjui’s Musaki Enterprises Ltd. (www.reskqu.blogspot.com/2009/01/arboretum-project.html) has developed a reputation for pioneering work in developing fuel-efficient stoves and ovens. Its most popular success to date has been the Kenya Ceramic Jiko (jiko is Swahili for cooker), or KCJ, a cheap, simple and effective stove. The company was set up in 1992, but has been involved in international aid-funded research and development efforts since the 1980s.

“My dad was on a very good team of highly motivated individuals in the early 80s who developed the stove through pragmatism, logic and good old-fashioned ingenuity,” said his son, Teddy Kinyanjui. “He then set up the independent Musaki Enterprises.”

The KCJ uses a ceramic liner placed inside a metal container. The metal is usually recycled, often taken from 55 gallon steel drums. The ceramic liner stops the heat energy from simply escaping into the environment and helps to focus the heat on cooking. Simply adding the ceramic liner reduces the stove’s fuel consumption by between 25 and 40 percent. The charcoal or wood sits in the ceramic basin and the burnt ash falls through holes in the bottom of the liner.

The stove design was a result of international and Kenyan cooperation, and has become popular in many African countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Senegal and Sudan. It is used in 50 percent of urban homes in Kenya and 16 percent of rural homes.

Musaki Enterprises say the KCJ stoves on average save between 1 and 1.5 tons of CO2 per stove per year compared to other models. In supermarkets, the KCJs retail for around US $5 and the Kinyanjui Jiko ovens start at around US $100.

The deployment of the KCJ stoves has helped in slowing the deforestation of the country, but has not been able to bring it to a halt because of population growth and poor re-forestation efforts, says Teddy Kinyanjui.

“The lack of forward planning in tree planting is making firewood and charcoal harder and harder to obtain,” he said. “Fossil fuels are unavailable or unaffordable. Tree planting must begin now on a huge scale for people to continue cooking.”

Teddy won’t reveal how profitable the KCJ stoves have been, but says, “I wouldn’t have gone to school if they didn’t sell well.”

“Well, more and more people keep buying the damn things as fast as we can make them, so I think our customers like them,” he said. “They really all seem to like that the stoves cook really well for really cheap and are very high quality.”

Published: June 2009

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Diaspora Bonds to Help Build up Infrastructure

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Many people are aware of the significant role played in global development by remittance payments from migrant workers working in the wealthy North to the global South. But they may not be aware of the significant sums migrant workers have saved in bank accounts in these wealthy countries. Across the global South, efforts are underway to lure these sums back to home countries to boost development efforts.

As the hard-earned money migrant workers save sits in bank accounts in wealthy Western countries earning very low interest rates – a consequence of the current global economic crisis – so-called “Diaspora Bonds” seek to offer a way to earn good interest returns and help build up home countries at the same time.

The money can help developing countries build facilities they need but cannot afford: roads, bridges, railways, water supplies, power, sewerage, street lighting. It is a way to bypass dependence on foreign aid and borrowing from aid agencies or the general marketplace.

US $501 billion in remittance payments was sent in 2011, of which US $372 billion went to developing countries, involving some 192 million migrants or 3 per cent of the world’s population (World Bank). On top of this, migrants from developing countries have saved an estimated US $400 billion – and these funds are being targeted by those selling diaspora bonds (The Economist).

The idea is being promoted by the World Bank and draws on the successful experiences with bonds for Israel and India. Both countries have long histories of turning to diaspora communities to raise funds through bonds.

The bonds work by playing on patriotism and the genuine desire of migrants to want to see conditions improve back home. As the thinking goes, patriotic investors are more likely to be patient. This is critical because many countries cannot offer rapid profits and a quick pay off – something sought by short-term investors obsessed with the ups and downs of the stock market. They are also sterner investors, less likely to run away when the going gets tough. Their local knowledge means they will not panic and pull their investments when bad news hits the headlines. And probably best of all, they don’t mind if the local currency declines in value – that just means they can pick up a local house on the cheap or buy a business for even less money.

One business working in this area is Homestrings (homestrings.com): Motto “Come make a difference.” An Internet platform offering diaspora bonds, it is run by founder and chief executive officer Eric-Vincent Guichard. An American born to a Guinean father and American mother, he spent 20 years growing up in rural Guinea and knows the country well. He also heads up GRAVITAS Capital Advisors, Inc. (gravitascapital.com), founded in 1996, which advises governments on how to manage their assets. A graduate of HarvardBusinessSchool and a former World Bank scholar, he is based in Washington, D.C.

According to its website, Homestrings works like this: “It all starts with your ability to scan through a catalog of projects, funds and public-private partnership opportunities that focus on regions you come from or that you care deeply about. Each of these projects and/or funds is detailed in a Fact Sheet that is set up to help you do the due diligence needed to make an investment decision. Then, Homestrings directs your investment into the selected project or fund, with the help of our administrator.”

Investments are monitored on a monthly or quarterly basis and are selected for their socio-economic impact and investment profitability.

The website has a personal “Dashboard” that allows investors to use the site to vote for or against investments and make comments. And Homestrings will promote the investments that receive the most support and positive comments.

To make an investment, a potential investor selects a fund or project that matches their interest. They read the Fact Sheet and choose. The funds are then passed on to the investment bond and an interest percentage or dividend is paid at regular intervals. Investors can keep track of the investment through the personal Dashboard on the website.

Fact Sheets are organized by geographical region, industry focus, and development theme. Investments “cover infrastructure, health care, education, transportation, and small and medium sized enterprise finance – all critical areas of economic growth.”

The Homestrings Catalog of investments includes the governments of Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and also AFREN PLC, which is looking to finance oil and gas exploration off the coast of Nigeria.

Dramatic improvements in global communications in the past five years have also made it much easier for everyone involved to stay in touch and for bond promoters to identify and target potential customers.

The World Bank is currently advising countries on how to run diaspora bond schemes. Kenya, Nigeria and the Philippines have schemes in the works, according to The Economist.

Ethiopia has announced the “Renaissance Dam Bond” (http://grandmillenniumdam.net/). Proceeds will be used to fund the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa, able to generate 5,250 megawatts. Ethiopia tried a similar scheme before with the Millennium Corporate Bond to raise funds for the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO). This did not entirely meet expectations and sales were slow. Reasons given for this included a perception that EEPCO could not meet payment expectations when the hydroelectric power plant was operating. There was also a lack of trust in the government and its financial stability and the overall political risks.

The second attempt at a bond is believed to better thought through. It comes with an aggressive marketing and awareness-raising campaign aimed at the diaspora, and it starts at US $50, making it more affordable for more people.  It can be used as collateral in Ethiopia – an advantage for those wanting to do business back in the home country.

For potential investors, it is worth remembering that bonds are debts that are rewarded with regular interest payments and paid back at the end of the bond term. They are not risk-free and the risk can lie either in the sovereign solvency of the country or in the investment.

The secret to a successful bond issue is to keep up good relations with the diaspora; countries that are too oppressive could find themselves short of people willing to take up the offer.

Published: October 2012

Resources

1) Remittance Payments Worldwide: A website by the World Bank tracking remittance prices worldwide. Website:http://remittanceprices.worldbank.org/About-Us

2) The World Bank blog on diaspora bonds. Website:http://blogs.worldbank.org/category/tags/diaspora-bond

3) A critical perspective on diaspora bonds at Africa Unchained. Website:http://africaunchained.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/are-diaspora-bonds-worth-risk.html

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

African Online Supermarket Set to Boost Trade

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Online retailing and marketing strategies are revolutionizing how people around the world buy products and services – but so far they have not benefited most of Africa’s small businesses and traders. On a continent where trading for survival is the norm, very few people are reaping the benefits of selling on the Internet.

Not only has limited access to the Internet and the lack of high bandwidth in Africa impeded communication within the continent, it has restricted African businesses from taking advantage of the most profound change in global business for decades: e-retailing (also known as e-tailing or e-commerce).

But the African information technology pioneers of Ghana – a country that has already gained a reputation as an IT leader in West Africa (www.ghanaictawards.com) – are setting out to change this situation, and in turn to change the way people access African goods and services.

Pledging in its motto to reach “every African nook and cranny,” ShopAfrica53 is an online shopping portal similar to famous brands like Amazon or eBay, but focused entirely on giving African traders the ability to sell across the continent and to the world online.

The one-stop shopping site – taking its name from the 53 countries on the continent – can be accessed by Internet users, or better still, by the enormous number of mobile phone users not only in Africa but around the world.

The number of mobile phone subscribers in Africa surpassed 300 million in 2008 (ITU), representing a significant market in their own right. Research group Informa Telecoms and Media estimates mobile networks now cover 90 per cent of the world’s population – 40 per cent of whom are covered but not connected.

ShopAfrica53 works like this: merchants first fill out an online form on the ShopAfrica53 website. They are then contacted by ShopAfrica, and an account is set up.

People wanting to buy goods and services on the website use the African Liberty Card to ensure the transactions are safe and not at risk from hackers and fraudsters. The disposable pre-paid scratch card can be used on mobile phones and the Internet and is purchased from store outlets.

ShopAfrica handles the logistical hassles of shipping to customers around the world, facilitates payment transfers, and helps with record keeping for merchants.

ShopAfrica offers an eclectic selection of goods: apparel and accessories, books and stationery, groceries, handicraft, health and personal care, home and garden, machinery and tools, technology and entertainment. It promises to offer the “best selection of African products, anywhere, worldwide” – everything from building supplies, household items and electronics to processed foods and fabrics.

One Ghanaian merchant, Mohammed Salifu, promises to deliver in two days a “large brown cow for delivery or collection. The size, colour and weight of animal will vary. This merchant provides live goats, sheep, cattle for special occasions and festivities and can also provide a slaughtering service for clients.”

Then there is Vera Ami Kpogli, who is selling a ‘Beyonce’ Electric Blue necklace. Tse-Lee Fashions offers Batik/Tie and Dye Print Shirt in aqua and navy. And for the ‘king’ of the house, Ama Afrique Designs is selling Men’s Royal Rulers, sandals “worn many centuries ago by African kings.”

The potential of this service to boost incomes is considerable: in the United Kingdom, online sales now make up 15 percent of all retail spending, reaching £43.8 billion (US $66.12 billion) in 2008 (IMRG).

As has been seen with other countries of the Global South, trade in high quality goods boosts incomes. South-South trade grew by an average of 13 percent per year between 1995 and 2007. By 2007, South-South trade made up 20 percent of world trade. And over a third of South-South commerce is in high-skill manufacturing. Making finished goods, rather than just selling raw materials, improves workers’ skill levels and increases the return on trade.

The rapid changes to African countries – the tilt to being more urban than rural, and being home to a larger urban population than North America, with 25 of the world’s fastest growing cities (International Institute for Environment and Development) – means there is an urgent need to boost incomes and better connect traders and manufacturers to the global economy.

ShopAfrica53 could be the start of a very big thing for African trade.

Published: May 2009

Resources

  • The red dot logo stands for belonging to the best in design and business. The red dot is an internationally recognised quality label for excellent design that is aimed at all those who would like to improve their business activities with the help of design.
    Website: www.red-dot.de
  • BOP Source is a platform for companies and individuals at the BOP (bottom of the pyramid) to directly communicate, ultimately fostering close working relationships, and for NGOs and companies to dialogue and form mutually valuable public-private partnerships that serve the BOP.
    Website: http://bopsource.ning.com/
  • Business Fights Poverty: Business Fights Poverty is the free-to-join, fast-growing, international network for professionals passionate about fighting world poverty through good business.
    Website: businessfightspoverty.ning.com
  • Dutch Design in Development: As a matchmaker, DDiD puts together European clients, Dutch designers and small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries. The designers share their knowledge of European consumer tastes, product development, design and quality standards
    Website: www.ddid.nl
  • Afriville is a Web 2.0 service and an African Caribbean social network. Afriville is a community website along the lines of the famous MySpace. Users are free to message and post profiles. The difference is that the user is able to choose how closed or open the networks are. The site features a state of the art music management system which allows African and Caribbean artists to get straight in touch with their fans.
    Website: www.afriville.com
  • Business Action for Africa: Business Action for Africa is an international network of businesses and business organisations from Africa and elsewhere, coming together in support of three objectives: to positively influence policies for growth and poverty reduction, to promote a more balanced view of Africa, and to develop and showcase good business practice in Africa
    Website: www.businessactionforafrica.org
  • Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) is a membership community for the e-retail industry, whose vision is to maximise the commercial potential of online shopping
    Website: www.imrg.org

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022