Solar Power Lighting Up Profits In Small Scale Businesses In Bungoma, Kenya

By Gabriel Ingubu & Savai F. SabwaTwiter: GabrieIngubu; @sfsavai


A statistical National Economic Survey report by the Central Bank of Kenya indicates that the small scale business sector constitute 98% of all businesses in Kenya. The report adds that the sector creates 30% of jobs annually. This has an overall impact of 3% to the G.D.P of Kenya.
A further interrogation of the report reveals that the small scale sector commands an important fraction of the economy that is driven by grocery sellers, who are locally referred to as mama mboga. This is a name given to women who operates make shift stalls either by the roadside or in open market centers commonly referred to as ‘kibanda’.
In the semi-rural Kenya, grocery business normally starts in the evening hours and picks up to the wee hours of the evening. This is to cater for those customers that would not have had time to buy items during the day because of their otherwise busy schedules. This is in addition to the reason that most Kenyans prefer sleeping on heavy meals (which is mostly Ugali) and so vegetables are accompaniment.
Small scale business in Bungoma County
Bungoma County, is approximately 400 kilometers west of Nairobi city and is among e counties that greatly benefit from the kibanda business. According to the 2009 national census, Bungoma has a favourable climate for agriculture and a big consumer population of about 1.5 million. The big consumer population in the county is the reason why towns and shopping centers across Bungoma to be busy until late hours.
Mama Mboga and their Kibanda business are greatly disadvantaged by darkness even though the county government has made an effort to install a few flood lights and street lights in select areas for security purposes: where you will find concentration of Kibanda business clustered around to take advantage of the light and sell their wares at night.
During our visit to various stalls on different markets across the county with an objective of finding out from common mwananchi the significance of Photo Voltaic (PV) solar to their business; Mama Mboga and other Kibanda operators attested to the benefits of using solar lamps to their business. We find out that the peak hours of the makeshift stalls begins from around 1700hrs to as 2200hrs.


Witness Accounts
On our investigation, we come across Nancy Amoding’ a Mama Mboga who operates her kibanda along the Kanduyi-Bungoma road, who confirms that by using solar lamps to light up her kibanda; her earnings have tremendously increased. Ms Nancy points out that on a good day, she nets about Kshs.2000 (20 USD). The trader attributes this increase to the boom in business as a result of customers who flock her kibanda from rush hours of the evening from work.

  “Before, I relied on candles for lighting, even though they never used to produce enough light. Besides, it could not withstand windy weather, so I would close my business at around 7pm”. Said Nancy Amoding’.
From her narration, Nancy said that if she had to stay past 1900hrs at her Kibanda, she needed to have eight candles a day for lighting her kibanda and her storage area. These two, she says that costed her KSH80, thus reducing her profit margins.  Nancy also laments that the candles emitted dime light and which was also smoky.
Due to the adoption of solar lighting, Nancy disclosed that it has come with a blessing. That there are customers who end up buying items on display as a by the way because of the solar light that glares on them in a pleasant manner.PHOTO  1: Ms Nancy Amoding, selling  grocery at night  along the Kanduyi- Bungoma road, Bungoma County, Kenya
“Some customers buy what they have not planned for especially fruits because they find them attractive. Therefore, I always display them well and brighten our lamps to make a kill.” She added.
Kenya lies on the equator and thus receives high radiance (estimated at 4-6 kwh/m2/day) all the year. This means that in a day, a square meter of solar panel can generate 4 to 6Kw units of electricity (Kilowatts). Practically, that amount of energy can power 400-600 of10W light bulbs for one hour!
Regional Solar Power Uptake
From this revelation, therefore, there is need to maximize the potential of the magnanimous energy resource in order to boost the economies acrossurban centers as well as in the rural areas. This will greatly bridge the energy deficit that is experienced across the Sub-Saharan region and Africa in general.
In a bid to boost the uptake of solar power in the country, the Kenyan government in 2014 exempted all solar PV equipment from V.A.T. The rationale was to make solar related gadgets to be affordable and accessible to many and at the same time ease overreliance on the national main grid for power.
Kenya’s efforts have been applauded in the region; most notably in a United Nation’s event held in Ghana during the Africa Climate Week from 18th to 25th March 2019. During the conference, it was reported that Kenya is among the top five countries in Africa using solar to generate electricity for her population thus stepping up services in Health sector, Security, Agri-Business and Youth employment.
According to the Progress Report on goal number seven of the SDGs of the year 2019, renewable energy share of total energy consumption gradually increased from 16.6% in 2010 to 17.5% in 2016 globally. Also read https://www.dlight.com/news/

PHOTO  2: Mr Daniel Wekesa, a small scale trader  of PV solar equipment and other electronic appliances in Bukembe market, Bungoma CountyDaniel Wekesa, a youth who operates a kibanda at Bukembe market in Bungoma County sells all sorts of common electronics and electrical appliances such as; cables, radios and small size solar panels.  
Wekesa narrates that; on average, he sells two panels a day, which earns him about KSH 800 (80 USD) in profit. He said,“I stock these small solar that sells fast. I have 6.0w panel which I sell at KSH 1200 (12 USD), 3.5w panel for 1000 (10 USD) and the 1.2w which goes for KSH 500 shillings (5 USD)”.

Mr. Wekesa is among the many vendors of solar panels across the county who makes sure that the gadgets penetrates deeper into the remote areas.  Such businesses have a great impact in uplifting the small scale business sector of the economy in Kenya. Is is these increased availability of solar gadgets by sellers like Mr Wekesa, who are in most times  invisible that are making Kenya to shine on SDG number seven.
According to the revenue department of Bungoma County, across the county we have approximately 10000 stalls which contributes to around KSH 110 million in revenue per year. So if Kenya can tap solar energy, her dream for job creation and sustaining 24hour economy can easily be realized by the year 2025.

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