Microfinance FINCA Chief Joins Obama’s Forum for Off-Grid Clean Energy Markets

The White House Forum on Catalyzing Markets for Off-Grid Clean Energy Access has gathered momentum with more industry players joining the campaign.

FINCA International’s President and CEO, Rupert Scofield, has announced the organization’s commitment to provide affordable solar energy products to benefit 1.5 million people in Africa by 2019. FINCA will also facilitate the off-grid market by fostering other social enterprises that bring solar solutions to low-income consumers and small businesses.

The White House Forum gathered private sector, philanthropic and government stakeholders to make commitments to address the need for clean, low-cost energy access in developing countries. All participants will sign the Guiding Principles of the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnerships (Global LEAP) to support off-grid appliance markets and mini-grid quality assurance efforts.

FINCA, a Washington, DC based provider of microfinance services in 23 countries, plans to help 300,000 households acquire quality solar products such as lamps and cell phone chargers. Starting in Uganda, FINCA is training young entrepreneurs to sell and distribute these products, while also developing innovative financing mechanisms to enable poorer people to buy them.

Approximately 1.3 billion people worldwide, and more than 200 million in Africa alone, live without access to electricity. Many rely on kerosene lamps which bring harmful pollutants into the home and frequently lead to burns and fires.

Clients who have purchased solar systems and lanterns report improved respiratory and eye health, better light that allows children to study at night, and substantial savings on lighting and phone charging. FINCA-endorsed solar lanterns are 15 times brighter than kerosene and a single day’s charge can provide 36 hours of light.

"Access to energy is essential to help people live more comfortable lives and to become more productive," said Scofield. "Access to clean energy is even better. But the financing piece of this puzzle – both for low-income consumers and off-grid energy providers – is often a reason that markets don’t get going. With FINCA’s trusted brand, our 30 years of experience, our ability to facilitate or provide financing, and a deep knowledge of the challenges that our poorest clients face, we know that we can make a difference here. It’s very exciting."

FINCA International owns and operates a network of microfinance institutions serving nearly 2 million low-income entrepreneurs and their communities in 23 countries.

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