Zambia

We currently work directly with businesses in Lusaka (the capital) and Kitwe, Zambias second largest city, located in the Copperbelt Province.

Zambia

The businesses we work with

VITALITE is a Zambian registered social enterprise incorporated in 2013. It is their mission to offer affordable, appropriate and acceptable clean energy products and services to their customers across Zambia. They aim to deliver a complete range of home energy solutions that meet the varied energy needs of all Zambians, and to contribute to meeting the electrification goals of the Zambian government. VITALITE still considers itself to be a start-up, and aims to follow a ‘lean’ strategy that has high impact on development.

 

 VITALITE’s founders and active directors, John Fay and Sam Bell, spent time in the Agri-Forestry industry (particularly with rural farmers) prior to starting the company. They discovered that Zambia has the second highest deforestation rate due to the extent of charcoal production. Farmers make more money producing charcoal than they do from farming. There is a tax placed upon charcoal companies, but it is doubtful that the government collects on a million-dollar market that is mainly informal. However, the use of charcoal as a cooking fuel damages the environment and is detrimental to the health of those who use it, particularly in terms of Carbon Monoxide. Therefore, the company was founded to address this issue through clean cooking solutions.

After setting up the company, John and Sam discovered that 60% of the population do not have reliable energy for 20 hours a day. This inspired them to begin operating in the solar industry to help solve this electricity crisis. They view themselves as a development company.

VITALITE has a large variety of products that contribute towards VITALITE’s goals of providing clean, efficient and productive energy. The collection of these products can be put into three categories: clean cooking solutions, solar lamps and solar home systems.

Zambia

Impact

Due to Vitalite viewing itself as a development company, many of its activities have a wider impact.

Employment:

  • Vitalite employs 40% women at the time of the placement commencing, and has a very young workforce.
  • It also has a commitment for at least 40% of the EEP to be women.

Environmental, health and economic impacts:

  • The stoves use wood chips from pinewood trees that are sustainably farmed, and pellets that are an unwanted bi-product of local saw mills.
  • It also reduces the use of charcoal, which is not sourced  sustainably.
  • In terms of health, the wood burning stoves release much less carbon monoxide than their charcoal alternatives.
  • Economically, the stoves are designed and made in Zambia, and offer a relatively cheap source of energy for those in low income houses.

It is difficult to overcome the cultural tradition of cooking using charcoal but VITALITE could look at better tying these products with others as a method of increasing impact.

  • The solar lamps provide a more cost effective alternative to the use of kerosene lamps and candles and are more environmentally friendly.
  • The solar home system provides both access to reliable, clean energy and mobile money payments. This has a significant social impact on those who have no access to a bank account but can begin to build a credit history through their mobile money payments.

Vitalite talks about all its products fulfilling the ‘Triple A’ – Affordable, Appropriate and Acceptable. This helps them to have a wider social and environmental impact than other for profit organisations.

Key challenges

  • In-house processes
  • Brand visibility
  • Acquiring capital
  • Evaluating distribution network
Zambia

Action 1: More efficient tracking and organising of sales using accounting software

Activities taken towards this action: designed process map for current state, combined receipt and legal agreement into one document, designed tax invoice, designed process map for future best state.

Action 2: Create a scalable process for product assembly

Activities taken towards this action: redesigned packing process, produced process map of current and new state, informed Chipasha of new process

Action 3: Create formal brand guidelines to shape consistent marketing and communications

Activities taken towards this action: Formal brand guidelines issued, market research and focus groups conducted, social media and brand aligned.

Action 4: Carry out primary market research to better understand current and potential target markets

Activities taken towards this action: Completed primary market research; questionnaire and focus group.

Action 5: Introduce consistent training processes for all product sales executives

Activities taken towards this action: Written Agent and Cashier tests, Training Manual, Notes on Training Processes.

Action 6: Produce a monthly dashboard of sales performance and KPIs

Activities taken towards this action: Produced monthly dashboard

Action 7: Introduce triple bottom line accounting to effectively measure all of VITALITE’s impacts

Activities taken towards this action: Drafted TBL statements, produced future indicators, produced annual reports plan.

Zambia

“I’m sure that I speak for the whole team in saying that it has been a real pleasure working with each of you over the last couple of months!”  Sam Bell, Director

After spending 12 weeks working with our ICS volunteers Vitalite will continue to be supported by our Portfolio Managers working with CG:Zambia as they work towards reaching their goals.

If you would like to work with Challenges Worldwide, Click here to register your interest.  

Click here to read a great series of blogs written by our volunteers who worked with Vitalite and how solar power is changing lives in Zambia. 

While on placement our volunteers also take time to investigate and share the stories of the human side of the enterprise story!

We see that the real asset to a business is the people, those who run it, those who work for it and those who buy from and sell to the business.

Because of this our volunteers tell the stories of the people of Challenges Worldwide – our volunteers and those involved in the business.

You can read these insightful stories from Zambia on our blog or our ISSUU