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NOTS Lampe Solaire is a for-profit social enterprise launched in 2011 that sells and distributes solar lamps, aiming to replace all kerosene lamps in Mali with clean, safe solar alternatives by the end of 2016. This is incredibly important in Mali, where only 15% of the rural population has access to electricity, and kerosene use leads to serious health problems, air pollution, and in-house fires.
The organization was founded by the NOTS Foundation, a Netherlands-based social enterprise dedicated to improving the livelihoods of people in developing countries by creating and building social enterprises. The foundation engages in three main activities:
1) Solar lamp sales and distribution: NOTS expands access to solar technologies that improve people’s health and livelihoods using a financially sustainable business model.
2) Sustainable charcoal production: NOTS developed a business model that integrates efficient charcoal production, reforestation, agro-forestry and charcoal commercialization. This initiative is designed to stop the environmental destruction caused by non-sustainable charcoal production and to increase and diversify incomes in charcoal-producing villages.
3) Microfinance: NOTS invests in high-potential microfinance institutions in order to increase access to capital for low-income entrepreneurs in developing countries. NOTS is also a co-founder and 25% stakeholder in Triple Jump BV, a Dutch investment management firm that provides loans to microfinance institutions operating in poor countries.
NOTS chose to start its solar activities in Mali because of the relatively large improvement potential -- Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world -- and the low penetration of solar systems. Other impact investors have been reluctant to work in Mali due to its relative instability. The hope is that Kiva’s involvement and proof of concept will attract more enterprises and investors.
NOTS Lampe Solaire initially began supplying solar products through established retail locations across the country, and has since expanded to work with women’s associations. These associations train their members to set up small businesses selling lamps in their local communities. As of August 2013, NOTS Mali has sold over 40,000 affordable solar lamps. The plan is to make the organization sustainable and replicate the business model in other West African countries over the next two to three years.
Kiva’s work with NOTS Lampe Solaire:
Kiva loans are used by distributors and women’s associations to purchase solar lamps on credit. It requires a significant amount of capital for these borrowers to obtain inventory upfront, so loans will range in size from about US$20,000 to $33,000 with 90-day repayment terms.
Kiva is excited to work with NOTS Lampe Solaire because it is one of only two solar lamp distributors in the country. With funds provided by Kiva lenders, NOTS will be able to address the lack of working capital available to distributors, which has been the primary constraint on lamp sales. As a result, NOTS Lampe Solaire should be able to scale more quickly and provide even more households with high-quality solar products for clean, safe lighting and convenient mobile phone charging.
Because of Kiva and the lenders that invest via Kiva, NOTS is able to offer credit to distributors and women’s associations at 0% interest.