Social business model with new technologies
WeTu is a social enterprise founded by Siemens Stiftung in Kenya that works on innovative solutions related to energy supply and drinking water in communities on Lake Victoria. In addition, the company is deploying the first-ever electric vehicles specifically developed for rural Africa. By utilizing social and ecological business models relating to e-mobility, the vehicles are intended to improve living conditions for locals, create jobs, and establish new economic opportunities.
The company is called “WeTu” – Swahili for “ours” – and operates at the following locations on Lake Victoria: Mbita, Sindo, Nyandiwa, Sori, Ragwe Honge and Uhanya. Its core business is the rental of specially-designed solar fishing lanterns, selling and distributing clean drinking water, and providing e-mobility solutions. WeTu’s goal is to generate enough income to sustain business operations and maintain technical facilities. Any additional profit remains within the company and will be put toward expanding the social enterprise and its positive social impact.
In Kenya’s Lake Victoria region, just under 35 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. Only 20 percent is connected to a central power grid. Transporting people and goods is often a challenge in very rural areas. Another major hurdle facing the country is its high rate of youth unemployment: it currently stands at more than 20 percent, and an additional 800,000 school graduates enter the labor market every year.
However, startups and social enterprises are effective at creating permanent jobs under these circumstances while also providing basic services for everyday life.
The main WeTu office is located in Kisumu’s new LakeHub business incubator, a place that local digital startups call home. Working with these organizations ensures digital applications for new business models will take root and grow.
The new focus on electromobility will be accompanied by a German-Kenyan research partnership currently being established by Siemens Stiftung.