So, what have Sénérgie and the AFD student team been up to lately? In short, we have been…
Converting theory into practice
Throughout the entire year, academic papers on ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ business were telling us: ‘Last-mile distribution could be problematic and very costly in rural Africa…’
Business as usual though: we ignored both the academic commentary and our taxi drivers’ complaints and continued right on through! All of this means that we’re very close now to finally finishing up our pilot project of 30 solar systems in the region of Thiès. Customers in both Thienaba Khabane and Thiaoun have been served by the greatest duo in the world (Technician Laurent – Sociologist Aïssatou). And they’re hungry for more!
Exploring new markets
In Senegal alone, over half a billion chicken live in a permanent state of energy poverty.
Sénérgie wants to end this urgent matter of social injustice!
Seriously now: we have been testing some cool new applications of our Pico Solar Home kit. Apparently, most ‘poulaillers’ on Senegal’s countryside are also in the dark at night. Prolonging the day with a couple of hours of qualitative light could greatly enhance the egg producing capacity of the chickens, which could enhance the revenues of local farmers, which in turn could enhance the economy of our beautiful Senegalese country! Woohoow!
Spending a night at our customer’s homes
Obviously, the six million people in Senegal who are living off the grid remain our priority focus group. In order to evaluate the impact of the pilot project, the AFD students have been spending nights at our customer’s houses: evaluating how they use our system, what other appliances they might need, what impact the system has on their habits (light, phone charging, …). This was of course an epic experience, for which we would like to thank our pioneers Ibra Diouf (Thienaba Khabane) and Jean-Pierre Tine (Thiaoun).
Renewing and developing our partnerships
In order to serve waaaay more customers in the future (remember: six million people without electricity), we have to continuously evaluate and refresh our partnerships. The student team has been busy updating our cooperation with Caurie MF, the micro-financing institute that grants loans to our customers, helping them to overcome the upfront cost of buying a Pico Solar Home System.
Welcoming the new faces of Sénérgie
One of the big problems to tackle this summer was local succession. Els Peeters, our first Sénérgie warrior in Thiès, who had been working here for exactly a year now, was returning to Belgium. In order to ensure continuity, we had to hire a new manager who is capable of both running the local operations and lifting Sénérgie to the next level. Consequently, we were thrilled when our ideal profile ended up being closer than expected. Welcome, Fréderique Sheridan!
One of the first crucial tests our new manager had to withstand, was ‘take a team selfie on the back of a donkey riding 30 MPH through the Senegalese outback!’ Like a true leader, she decided to take this opportunity to develop her employees. She delegated the honour to Marnick, who had never taken a selfie before. He succeeded after a little trial-and-error…
Saying goodbye to familiar faces
In the meantime, we also said goodbye to our CTO Pelle ‘Jacob’ Jacobs, who we will fiercely miss in the last weeks of our mission! Our ‘tech toubab’, when not behind his laptop developing company software, didn’t miss an opportunity to get his hands dirty in the field.
Also, we had to say goodbye to the one and only Gilles ‘Souleyman’ Vanermen, one of the biggest driving forces behind the Sénérgie team. But, no need to worry, his unparallelled drive and love for the mission makes it evident, the Sénérgie story doesn’t end here for him! Drained in a ‘small senegalese shower’ and hopelessly late for the airport, goodbyes were short and unnecessary, as they should be!
That leaves Marnick, Tessa and Max to keep the Sénérgie flag waving! We’ll keep you posted.
Last but not least; spending an EPIC weekend in Saint-Louis
The team took some time to discover the city of Saint-Louis during the weekend. Saint-Louis has a cosy city-centre, long stretches of white sand (but incredibly polluted) beaches and a national park just a stones throw away.
‘Hivernage’, the rainy season, has definitely begun and there is no escaping it!
We had a great time exploring the St. Louis night life! We danced till we dropped in a sweaty Senegalese night club, but kept wondering why Africans love to look at themselves while dancing.
But then again, we might have lost Marnick…
There! Stay posted for more news on Sénérgie and the adventures of the student team on location. New update following soon!
Best regards, The Sénérgie team