Joe Barasa
Joe Barasa

From the initial idea to SolarFountain gGmbH, a nonprofit organization

Siemens Stiftung and Solarkiosk AG have been working in Kenya for many years. While Siemens Stiftung focuses on clean drinking water, health and empowering people, Solarkiosk AG specializes in building and operating solar-powered kiosks developed by the Graft company. Solarkiosk AG has won multiple accolades for its innovative kiosk design, including Siemens Stiftung’s empowering people. Award in 2013. The two organizations got to know each other during the award process and decided to break new ground together with the nonprofit joint venture, SolarFountain gGmbH.

Providing infrastructure and education for communities

The kiosks’ design and modular structure enable operators to sell other goods alongside solar electricity and clean drinking water, for example environmentally friendly cooking stoves, solar lamps and hygiene products. SolarFountain gGmbH will also offer its kiosk users specially targeted entrepreneurship training and hygiene courses. The courses will help local residents to take advantage of the benefits of a clean drinking water supply and clean energy, protect their health and put their own business ideas into practice.

Social franchise model

While there is great demand for everyday products in the target regions, lack of purchasing power means that this is not met by existing providers. Now, SolarFountain has developed an operational model to make supplying such communities viable: capital investments are funded by donors and social investors, while the sale of products and services at affordable prices covers the costs of operating the kiosk. This is a key aspect given the failure of many projects due to lack of affordable long-term funding.

Adapting to stay true to ourselves

The business model of SolarFountain gGmbH enables a more flexible organizational structure and allows social impact to be multiplied on a scale that would not have been possible within the Stiftung itself. Siemens Stiftung provided the managing director in the first phase of the start-up and will continue to accompany and support SolarFountain’s development and operational expansion in future. Establishing a joint venture together with a solar company is a first for the charitable sector.

As part of its operational project portfolio in Africa, Siemens Stiftung will also support SolarFountain gGmbH with its hygiene and entrepreneurship training programs.