Author: Noelle van Hove

In the heart of Kenya’s energy sector, Arizona State University (ASU) Laboratory for Energy And Power Solutions (LEAPS) is joining forces with a formidable consortium of local and international partners to reshape the energy landscape, challenge long-standing gender norms, empower women entrepreneurs, and create new opportunities in the energy sector. Joining forces as an impressive consortium of partners, will be MK Advisors, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) International, SEGURA Consulting, LLC., and the United States Energy Association (USEA).

 

This twelve-month, $400,000 initiative serves as a guide to support women-led businesses in Kenya, particularly within the energy sector, by providing a $50,000 grant along with comprehensive technical assistance and business support. With a model tailored to the unique needs of each enterprise, the program offers an array of support services. These range from entrepreneurship training, engineering and technology guidance, product development support, supply chain analysis, and much more.

Backed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with financial support structured to enhance key indicators reflecting gender equity and energy efficiency, this endeavor is working to increase the number of individuals trained in clean energy, mobilization of investment dollars into clean energy-related opportunities, and engagement with private sector partners to achieve United States (U.S.) foreign assistance objectives.  The underlying goals of this initiative also align with the U.S. Government-led partnership: Power Africa’s key indicators, which emphasize the eradication of energy poverty, acceleration towards a carbon-free future, and bolstering private-sector investment to improve market competition and encourage innovation in the energy sector.

ASU’s engagement with women-owned and gender-equity-centric businesses is multi-dimensional. By providing entrepreneurship and business process training, the program equips participants with foundational and advanced knowledge to navigate the business world. The engineering and technology guidance ensures that products are not only innovative but technologically sound. This initiative supports a range of businesses, each making its mark in the energy sector – some examples include:

60Hertz: A Computerized Maintenance Management Software Company, providing essential tools to address issues and improve maintenance in microgrids, thus bridging the gap between monitoring and work order scheduling.

SunCulture: A climate-smart agriculture company that designs and services solar energy systems and irrigation solutions for smallholder farmers, promoting renewable energy and enhancing productivity.

Giraffe BioEnergy: An innovative enterprise training women to grow cassava and establish an ethanol biorefinery, biofertilizer production, and local ethanol manufacturing.

From ideation to execution, product development support is a critical component of this framework, ensuring that businesses can bring their visions to market effectively. Meanwhile, the start-up financing aspect of the program helps demystify the financial landscape, providing clarity and direction on acquiring and managing future funding.  Market insights are paramount to understanding target demographics, and thus, customer segment analysis helps identify and tailor marketing strategies. Concurrently, supply chain and sustainability analyses ensure that businesses operate efficiently and responsibly, while adhering to sustainability principles.

Cost reduction opportunity assessments enable businesses to streamline operations and increase profitability, while brand and marketing strategy assistance elevate their presence in the marketplace. Recruiting and hiring coaching ensures that the right talent is on board, fostering a skilled and committed workforce. Finally, sales coaching and detailed engineering design mentorship fine-tuning the go-to-market strategies and product engineering processes, ensuring businesses are not only creating viable solutions but also excelling at delivering them to the market.

The ultimate objective is clear: to create a replicable and scalable support mechanism that not only strengthens businesses within Kenya but also propagates learning experiences across other developing countries. It is a blueprint for empowerment, innovation, and sustainable development, weaving together the threads of entrepreneurship and gender equity into the larger fabric of Kenya’s energy sector. This initiative is an example of the power collaborative efforts can bring to driving societal transformation and economic progress with women at the helm of change.