The winner of the SEIF Award for Social Entrepreneurship 2014 ARED (African Renewable Energy Distributor) has developed a low cost franchise business model using a patent pending mobile solar kiosk to promote entrepreneurship and renewable energy in urban and rural areas in Africa.
We asked founder Henri Nyakarundi how things have evolved since winning the award and where the project is heading.
Can you tell us what made you decide to apply for the award? How did that come about?
I was mostly looking to apply for an award to raise funds for our venture and provide networking opportunities.
How did you hear about it at the time?
Through a Google search. We search for competitions all the time.
And what happened after you applied?
Well, we got an email that we were selected as finalist. I did not find out that we won until I came to Zurich.
Were you surprised when you heard the announcement? How did you estimate your chances?
I mean you never know, I did not even know who my competition was – I was just happy to be a finalist. I came to network really. So yes, I was very surprised. Especially coming from Africa.
I can imagine. Did all of the prize money go into the kiosks or were you able to use it for something else as well?
No, all of it went towards the project. We built 20 kiosks and the prize money paid for half of it, the other half was a loan we placed two days after I received the money. And now we have 25 kiosks.
Would you say the award helped in any other way besides the money?
We got some press, but mostly it legitimized our company and project.
And how did things proceed in the year after the award?
Well, we obtained a big contract with Airtel (a large telecommunications company in Africa) and are currently planning for 100 more kiosks!
Wow, that’s fantastic! In hindsight: Would you recommend an application to someone else? Especially in Africa?
Of course! There is a lot of innovation in Africa that lacks a platform like SEIF to show it to the world and get the support needed to bring their project to life.
One last question: What advice would you give them for the application? Is there anything you know now, that you would have liked to know before the award ceremony?
To be honest no, we do not know the selection process and who the candidates are, so there is no advice. I had looked at the website and did not see any African who had won before, but I still took a chance because I truly believe in the project and I see the impact we have on the ground.