Aiming to empower residents of Kenya’s off-grid rural communities to pursue productive activities that require electricity, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has set up 15 pilot stand-alonecommunity power centres (CPCs) at rural trading centres across the country as part of its Lighting-up Kenya Programme. These CPCs are community-managed electricity generating units driven by various renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydro and biomass). Until early 2011, efforts had focused on the technical and institutional aspects of establishing the centres. No technical training or other activities promoting productive use had been implemented. This provided a ready entry point to test-run several modules of the EUEI PDF / GIZ PRODUSE Manual, which was in its finalisation phase at that time.
To this end, EUEI-PDF and UNIDO jointly organised three workshops in Kenya in July 2011, with methodologies and content based on the manual’s approach:
- a one-day stakeholder workshop for representatives of government, civil society, the private sector and donors to discuss needs and to work out options for promoting productive use in Kenya;
- two-day community workshops at two selected CPCs with local community members to analyse and raise awareness of options for productive electricity use within the local economic context.
The workshops were intended to kick-start efforts at promoting productive use of electricity near the CPCs, and possibly on a broader scale throughout Kenya.
The following institutions were represented at the stakeholder workshop: Kenya’s Ministry of Industrialisation and Rural Electrification Authority (REA), Kenya Power (electricity distribution utility), Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Transmission Company, the Energy Regulatory Commission, Industrial Development Bank (IDB) and Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) along with donor organisations and agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), African Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and GIZ, as well as several private companies.
There was broad consensus among participants that electricity can be an important driver for enhancing value addition in Kenya’s agricultural production systems. Several participants highlighted that the lack of access to electricity and inadequate power supply, both in terms of quantity and quality, were still major bottlenecks to rural economic development.
Lively debate focused on following questions:
- Does productive use of electricity need external support in Kenya, or are market forces sufficient to foster working business models?
- Should efforts to promote productive use prioritise structurally weak areas with an eye to boosting equitable development, or will productive use only pick up in areas that already enjoy good physical infrastructure and market opportunities?
- Should productive use promotion also target medium-sized and large enterprises capable as employers of contributing to reducing rural poverty?
- What role can private actors play? Is there a case for government engagement in promoting productive use of energy?
Workshop participants proposed the following activities to promote productive use of electricity in Kenya’s rural areas:
- Include a reference to promotion of productive electricity use in Kenya’s energy policy;
- Undertake campaigns to raise awareness among various stakeholders to productive electricity use;
- Document various success stories and working business models of productive electricity use, and utilise these examples as tools to advocate for financing of productive use among microfinance institutions (MFIs), savings and credit cooperative organisations (SACCOs) and decision-makers at various levels;
- Promote diversity among business start-ups making productive use of electricity, as individual entrepreneurs lacking in market oversight may tend to replicate proven business models to an unsustainable degree;
- Develop a multi-stakeholder partnership as a way of increasing productive use activities in Kenya;
- Set up a productive use trust fund.
Some participants observed that business environments and market opportunities differ widely across the country, so that any analysis of business opportunities would only be valid within a very local context.
- Experience from an EUEI PDF initiative in collaboration with UNIDO Kenya