After growing up without electricity, Abdishakur is lighting up his country

This article originally appeared on OFID's blog "Uniting against Poverty."

The One Young World Summit 2017 took place on October 4–7 in Bogotá, Colombia. OFID was once again proud to sponsor the attendance of 25 young leaders whose work improves conditions and prospects for the world’s most disadvantaged people in their home countries. Abdishakur Ahmed is one such leader. The Co-Founder and CEO at SomLite shares his story about contributing to energy access in rural Somaliland.

During Somalia’s civil war in the late early ‘90s, the energy sector was completely destroyed. More than 80 percent of the Somaliland population does not have access to grid electricity.

In urban areas, power is produced by privately owned generators and it’s estimated that residents spend 30 percent of their monthly income on electricity bills. Most of the electricity is produced by using imported diesel and inefficient power generators. It is distributed via a network with an estimated 40 percent loss rate. In rural areas, electricity is non-existent because the market is not attractive to private producers. This problem has affected me personally, as I was raised in a rural village without access to modern electricity.

Growing up in such a way inspired me to start SomLite in December 2014. SomLite focuses on financing and distributing a range of clean energy and solar technologies to off-grid, rural Somalis. We address the problem of affordability by using a financing model that allows customers to pay via instalments on their mobile phones. Rural Somalis are cash-constrained and typically don’t have enough to buy solar products outright, yet they spend far more on a year’s worth of kerosene than on the total cost of a solar light. SomLite’s incremental payment structure allows villagers who would have been deterred by the upfront cost to light their houses and businesses.

Since SomLite was established, it has distributed more than 4,200 solar lamps among off-grid communities across Somalia. Annual social impact assessments have shown that access to solar lighting significantly improves the quality of life in rural villages. For example, small businesses are able to open for an extra two hours after sundown, children can study after dark and household income has increased by an average of US$12.5 per month.

SomLite contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all – and to SDG 13 – taking action to combat climate change. Our company has also created 29 jobs – 15 of these are for women – and we are expecting to hire more as we expand throughout Somalia.