The CEO, Habiba Ali shares her experiences in this interview.
Give us a brief introduction about your organisation. What motivated you to start your organisation?
Sosai Renewable Energies Ltd is a social enterprise promoting the use of affordable products that improve the quality of life of households. Some of Sosai products include solar powered lamps, improved cook stoves and filters. The company is headquartered in Kaduna State, and has offices in Minna – Niger State and Kano State. The business focuses on the assembly and distribution of solar powered home systems, solar powered lamps, solar power boxes and improved cook stoves including and not limited to other livelihood improving products like water filters. Our products are substitutes for power and lighting appliances such as generators, conventional lanterns and candles. We also focus on the creation of micro-enterprises and training of individuals especially women to build solar power boxes and become energy entrepreneurs in their communities.
What does your company seek to achieve in Nigeria’s cooking energy market?
From the onset, Sosai’s primary goal has been to provide alternative and affordable renewable energy in rural and semi-urban areas with the aim of improving the quality of livelihood within these communities. Our products have global standards. We provide clean energy to homeowners, businesses, schools, non-profits and government organizations at a lower cost than they pay for energy generated by burning fossil fuels.
What are the opportunities in the business environment that have supported your business over the years?
An important opportunity is our ongoing partnership to implement CDM projects. This has helped to move the cook stoves product lines forward. But we have had our fair share of challenges. In all, we have had to chart our own path and continue to achieve important milestones, especially in the cook stove sector.
How are your customers reacting to your products in the market – benefits of using your product?
We get a lot of commendation and joy from people who use our cook stoves. Of course, we have had people who complain about the performance of our products. But we have come to realize that it’s often a function of learning how to use them appropriately. So we train and retrain the users of our products and provide after sales services.
Job creation and the empowerment of women seem to be increasingly important. How has your organization helped to drive employment generation and the empowerment of women?
The stove we currently use in our project is built at the point of use. We recruit and train artisans in the communities where we work. And they are paid as they build stoves for households. So they are quite excited to build stoves because they have an extra income especially this season where the farm produce has not yet been harvested. Today we have over 60 artisans working with us. We also have women community cook stove champions. These champions visit households and train fellow women on how to use the stoves. These women are paid by us and this has ensured a rapid acceptance of the cook stoves in our communities.
If you are asked to advise the Federal Government of Nigeria on policy options, what are the three most important things the government can do to expand the market?
The Government can support the industry in a number of ways. Importers of knock-down parts can be encouraged. Some support and encouragement for local manufacturers are also needed. Importantly, the government should play an active role in behavioural change campaigns.
If an enabling environment is not created by government, what future risks do you envisage?
For now, I don’t see any challenges. Our stove model is quite basic and easy to adopt and adapt to.
Where do you envisage your organization to be in the next 5 years in terms of production?
We see ourselves being a leader in production and implementation of the use of improved cook stoves in more rural communities of Nigeria.
What risk does your business face and what is your biggest challenge?
The risk we face is the fact that our products are still sold by us directly and not yet in the market. As a result of this, we are concerned about our growth prospects. Multiple taxations and customs clearance hurdles are some other issues, and including, of course, behavioural change.
What are your suggestions for moving the cooking energy market forward in Nigeria?
We must develop a viable value chain that will provide good financial, social and environmental returns to various stakeholders in the Nigerian cook stove sector.