In Manila, the capital of the Philippines, some 40% of residents live in shanty towns. Families in these deprived neighborhoods are often not connected to the electricity grid. The NGO Entrepreneurs of the World is offering an innovative solution of solar kits which provide reliable, sustainable and affordable access to electricity, while developing social ties between users.

Baseco is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Manila. To get there, you need to take the only road which goes to the shanty town, which is located on a peninsula of the capital of the Philippines. At the end of a succession of muddy alleys, the place reveals all its squalor: the paths are strewn with waste in which children play. Mangy dogs roam in front of the makeshift dwellings made of corrugated iron and wood. 

In the air, dozens of electric wires are all tangled up. Yet the shanty town is not officially connected to the city’s electricity grid. The lines are diverted and the electricity sold illegally at a very high price. But up until now, it was the only way for families to light their homes in this neighborhood abandoned to its fate. 

The NGO Entrepreneurs of the World has decided to address this situation by taking action with the ATE Co program. After several months of tests on various electrification solutions, it was decided to opt for a solar kit equipped with a pay-as-you-go system: the beneficiary families pay 20 pesos a day (34 euro cents) for an electrical capacity that allows them to light three light bulbs and recharge a mobile phone. It is on average half the price of illegal electricity or candles. After fourteen months, the users become the owner of their kit and can make considerable savings on their daily expenses. This is a revolution in the lives of some 400 families who are benefiting from this system in several shanty towns in Manila. 


Philippines, énergie, Acayan
Philippines, énergie, Acayan
Benji and Joven live in the same group of houses as Miko. When Joven saw the solar kit being installed at one of their neighbors, he got information about this new possibility and was quickly convinced of its interest compared to the very toxic kerosene lamps he used to use. It was then the turn of his neighbor, Benji, to adopt this system.

Solène, the program manager, is delighted with this snowball effect and with the spirit of solidarity that prevails: “In some neighborhoods, we have equipped entire streets! The advantage is that when there are problems with the system, residents can help each other.” Users can also rely on a hotline available 24/24, “But when a neighbor can step in, it’s even easier.”

Another benefit of the system: when there is a strong concentration of people equipped in a neighborhood, these lamps act as… street lighting, thanks to the residents who generally install one on their doorstep.
Philippines, énergie, Acayan
Miko has been using the solar kit for over a month. He is waiting for the daily collection in front of his tiny wooden house. The young man has two jobs: he works as a stock controller in a fertilizer company an hour away from his home and as a garlic peeler the rest of the time. Despite this, he cannot afford to live in decent housing.

He used to use candles for lighting, but is quick to admit: “It was really bad for my health. You can develop illnesses because of the toxic fumes”. For him, the solar kit means safety: “I’m no longer afraid of starting a fire at home or being poisoned. The light also keeps rats away and doesn’t attract mosquitos as much as candles”.

He also gains in terms of the price: “A candle cost 10 pesos, but I had to use 3 or 4 every evening. With the solar lighting, I have more light and I only pay 20 pesos a day”.
Philippines, énergie, Acayan
Maria Luisa will be the owner of the magic kit in a month. She started using the service in August 2017, but her husband died and she was unable to pay for several weeks. “It was really hard”, she explains, “but I managed to pick myself up and I started paying again after a while. I’m really proud of the fact that I’ll soon be the owner of this kit, it’s a real achievement.”

“For us, owning a solar kit might not mean a lot, but for them, it’s a real victory”, explains Jun, the program coordinator. “They can subsequently save what they don’t spend on energy”. Thanks to these savings, Marie Luisa wants to further develop her activity of recycling empty plastic bottles, which she sells for 36 pesos (60 euro cents) for 2 kilos.

As she lives alone with an orphan she adopted, she also feels safer since she has had lamps at home: “When people see light, they think there’s someone inside and this reduces risks of break-ins”, she explains.
 Philippines, énergie, Acayan
Nolibeth started using the solar kit about a year ago. Six months ago, ATE Co offered to take her on, in addition to her current job as a street vendor of dairy products, to collect payments and prospect for new clients. It was an immediate success: “It’s thanks to her that we find all our new clients”, says Jun enthusiastically. “She’s brought us 91 new clients in six months, it’s much more than what we used to do.”

Her technique is simple: “Every evening, when it’s dark, I go and sell my yoghurts in the streets in the neighborhood. I take one of the portable kits with me”, she explains, “and people can see that the lamps are really effective.”

Thanks to this additional source of income, this shanty town resident sees wider prospects for her future: “I want to open a general food store and thanks to the savings made when I’m the owner of the kit, I will be able to invest for the education of my daughters”.
 Philippines, énergie, Acayan
© Ezra Acayan / AFD

The solar kit, developed by the start-up SunKing, is in the form of a box with a keyboard, three lamps, a small solar panel and several switches. ATE Co wants to train and recruit shanty town residents for the installation of these kits, both to increase their equipment capacity and to involve communities in this program. 

The collectors are equipped with an application, developed by Aganza, which allows them to reference people who are up to date with their payments. This application also recently started operating offline and synchronizes with the overall database when access to Internet is restored. 

Thanks to the pay-as-you-go system, poor families no longer get into debt and pay every day, according to their means. In the event of non-payment or absence, users are given 30 days to decide whether to keep the kit or return it. If they decide to do without it, they can pass it on to another user who will benefit from the lease which has already been paid.

Philippines, énergie, Acayan
© Ezra Acayan / AFD

Building on the success of this program, Entrepreneurs of the World wants to export the model to the regions, in northern Manila, where residents have no access to electricity and no prospects of being connected in the near future. The project involves installing a solar electricity grid which connects houses together, while maintaining the daily payment system. By next year, the objective is to equip 1,000 families and double the number of staff working on this program. 

ATE Co is also exploring the possibility of extending its range of kits with more powerful models on which it will be possible to supply a TV and a fan. 

Finally, the model is going to be replicated in Burkina Faso, where the pay-as-you-go system is also seen as an effective solution to ensure access to the service without causing any debt.