The Arc Finance team was in Haiti this week, to co-host a workshop entitled Scaling the Delivery of Clean Energy Through Diaspora Engagement and Agent Sales, which presented to a broad audience of stakeholders the components, business models, results and lessons from Arc’s work with Haiti Money Transfer Organization Sogexpress.
Held at Hotel Karibe in the capital, the workshop was an opportunity to shine a light on Arc’s partnership with Sogexpress which features both a remittance financing model and an agent trade finance mechanism that address issues of energy poverty and affordability as well as distribution challenges.
The workshop was opened by Arc’s Managing Director Niki Armacost, and the Executive Director of Sogexpress Dominique Policard, who described the four-year program’s evolution, made possible by technical assistance funded by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, and USAID, and implemented by Arc Finance. The initiative leverages both the US-Haiti remittance corridor through the creation of a dedicated online platform, www.KlereAyiti.com, that enables Haitians in the diaspora to send solar lights to relatives in Haiti, and also the Sogexpress distribution network in Haiti by selling products through their stores and the network of agents across the country. In fact, this initiative has piloted a consignment trade finance model enabling agents to sell solar lighting products within their local communities in Haiti.
In the second session, entitled Rationale, Core Components and Business Models, Niki walked the audience through the goals of the initiative, including:
- To allow Haitians in the diaspora to provide solar products to their families via KlereAyiti.com;
- To expand access to solar products in Haiti through the Sogexpress network of flagship stores and agents; and
- To provide Sogexpress agents with a new business opportunity through a consignment model that enables them to sell solar products.
Niki explained that the initiative provides market-based solutions to the energy crisis in Haiti, it promotes renewable energy for even some of the poorest Haitian households, it creates jobs in Haiti, both for Sogexpress staff and the network of agents, and it engages the diaspora. This new commercial business model has raised consumer awareness about clean energy in Haiti, as well as the resulting economic, health, and social benefits.
The remittance model, called ‘Klere Ayiti’ – “Light-up Haiti” in Creole – is a platform that responds to a unique context where only 28% of the population has access to electricity, and where remittances represent over 26% of GDP. To marry this supply and demand, the platform features a dedicated website that allows local customers and senders living abroad to order the solar light kit of their choice. Orders are fulfilled by Sogexpress in three to five working days.
The other main component of the initiative, the consignment finance model, involves a nation-wide agent network which assists in the important job of awareness-building, especially in terms of the financial benefits of switching to solar from traditional fuels.
In the third session, entitled Results, Arc’s Haiti project lead Yara Akkari and Dominique summarized the impact of the programs so far, including the sale of over 86,000 EKOTEK solar devices, benefitting more than 430,000 people, and the creation of thousands of jobs for solar entrepreneurs.
Finally, Niki summarized many of the lessons learned, recommendations and next steps for the initiative, and Sogexpress Executive Vice President Franck Lanoix closed the workshop with an enthusiastic assessment of the present and future of the initiative. “At Sogexpress we want to help all Haitians benefit from our natural resource – an abundance of sunlight. With these solar lights children can study at night, families will feel more safe and secure, businesses can stay open longer and people can charge their phones. Having a cleaner and more accessible alternative for electricity with the solar lights has the potential to transform the lives of millions of Haitians,” he said.