Big Markets in Small Towns: Results from a close study of the market for off-grid lighting in three towns in Kenya

Lighting Africa recently released a study of the market for off-grid lighting that was completed by me and several collaborators between 2009 and 2012.  We originally visited Kericho, Brooke, and Talek in 2009 and surveyed the market for off-grid lighting.  It wasn't a pretty sight...mostly low quality products were available.  These beat the traditional flashlights and kerosene but didn't provide nearly the performance or value of better quality alternatives. Fast forward three years, and in 2012 there has been substantial growth in the availability of good-quality products in these towns.  

This study provides a micro-view of what is happening across Sub-Saharan Africa.  It is a complicated mix of relatively low-quality LED flashlights becoming a big force in the market and fast growth of good quality products as well.  Where we only saw 1 or 2 good quality solar products available in 2009, now they account for fully 30% of the market on a spending basis.  This is a big shift.  

Good quality solar products are sharing the market with a big, ever-changing set of lower quality LED flashlights and other forms.  We estimate that there were about 1.5 LED flashlights sold per person in the town of Kericho last year!  In another post on LuminaNET, I hope you can help us make an estimate of the global scope for this segment of the off-grid market...

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Comment by Peter Alstone on April 18, 2013 at 9:20am

It looks like the link for the report from Lighting Africa is currently broken.  I am following up with the web team there.  In the mean time, I have posted the report here:

Comment by Simon Collings on April 18, 2013 at 8:29am

Hi Peter, this looks like a very interesting study. The link to the report on the Lighting Africa site doesn't work though. Is it just me having this problem? How do I get a copy of the report? Thanks Simon

Comment by Yotam Ariel on April 12, 2013 at 12:14am

Interesting. Thanks.

Comment by Peter Alstone on April 11, 2013 at 1:39pm

Good Question Evan -- I think the charts I put on here were misleading.  It is the case the 12% of the available products are solar, but not that 1 out of 12 (i.e. 1%) account for the sales.  The story is that 12% of distinct, available products are solar, and that when you look at sales volumes in the whole market in terms of units sold, solar is only 1% (distributed across the 12% of that are available).  However, when you consider sales volumes in dollar value, not units, the market share for solar is about 30%.  This last number is the big takeaway for me...that people are willing to spend on solar and that it is quickly growing compared to the lower quality flashlights that are the base of the market.  

Comment by Evan Mills on April 11, 2013 at 1:00am

Thanks for yet another interesting study, and for some good news to ease the blow of the bad news....

Any idea about whether there was something special about the 1% of successful solar products in conext with the 12% of all available products that were solar?


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