Linda Wamune is operations director of SunnyMoney's Kenya office. Owned by Solar Aid, SunnyMoney is currently the largest distributor of Solar Lights in Africa, aiming to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020.
Linda tells us about being a business woman in Solar, how social enterprises are still rare in Africa and why she would encourage more women to work in Solar.
Solar Aid: How did you come to be running SunnyMoney's Kenya operations?
Linda Wamune: I joined SolarAid in 2011 when they were looking for a country manager with a business background. At that time I had been working at an energy company for eight years and had just finished my MBA and I was on the lookout for a challenge. There was also a strong personal motivation to apply - the job was not just about profit, not just benefiting one share holder but about the bigger community and a larger social gain.
What do you like about working in the solar sector?
I love working in the solar sector, my life has more meaning and I feel happier. In Africa the sun is out every morning - it's abundant. People don't necessarily know how to harness that power and it's great to be part of an organisation that is solving that problem for people.
Solar is also attracting more and more attention at the moment, gaining a great reputation and as the operations director here in Kenya I'm right in the middle of that. It makes every day interesting.
You're the largest distributor of solar lamps in Africa, How did it happen?
We had a breakthrough not long ago with our model. We now distribute through trusted community members, head teachers and this has led to a massive increase in numbers. This year we'll have sold 600,000 units across our four countries. Next year we are targeting one million units.
Why is solar so popular?
In Kenya people use kerosene to light their homes and often to cook. Solar is so popular because it's a no brainer for people - the moment they hear about a solar product that is cheap and effective it's an obvious choice.
What's the best bit about your job?
I love that there are many aspects to my job - the impact on others' lives give me a lot of job satisfaction. I really enjoy doing two things at once hitting social objectives and making profit.
Social enterprises are new in Kenya and SunnyMoney is one of the most pioneering, it's great to know that I am one of the most knowledgeable people in this sector - that is really exciting for me.
I don't have a stressful job, I mean the job is busy but the teams are fantastic and it makes the job, and the solar sector as a whole a fun and vibrant place to work.
What does solar offer for women and girls in particular?
It's women and girls, who buy kerosene, do the cooking and cleaning in most Kenyan homes. With households which have adopted solar - it means less work for the women in the house. It makes life easier - the girls can cook and clean under solar lighting instead of disgusting kerosene lamps and it's a nicer environment. It means more freedom for women.
Would you encourage more women to start working in solar?
Of course I would! Interesting sector to be in - women are not only domestic managers and assistants. Solar is a very easy to understand, I would encourage women to get involved. I think there is a lot of concern the solar is a technical sector and tricky to understand. But it's not it's just about harnessing energy the sun with good quality, low cost products. Women should get involved as solar lights are the future, we need to start using more renewable energy to save the planet, and we will!
This article is part of the BusinessGreen Solar Hub, hosted in association with Solar Aid.
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