The entrepreneur who is making more nutritious drinks available thanks to the cooling power of the sun

Awa Sene is a shop owner in Khassid, a village of 751 inhabitants situated 18km from the town of Fatick in south west Senegal. In Khassid, as in many of the neighbouring villages, there is limited access to energy, creating a barrier to local development for small businesses and households, and restricting opportunities for economic activity and growth.

Despite these and other personal challenges of her own, Awa, a 37 year old widowed mother of six, is committed to providing for her family and making a success of her enterprise. In 2018, she attended the Fatick Solar Energy Fair, where she discovered solar freezers and realised their potential. “When I saw the solar freezer, I understood the opportunities it could offer me and the rest of the village. Living in an off-grid area, we walk many kilometres to buy ice, which often melts before we get home. Cool drinks and water are nowhere to be found and without refrigeration food goes to waste very quickly”, Awa explained. So, she had the idea of purchasing a solar freezer to offer Khassid’s inhabitants new products and services.

Her motivation, strong potential and lack of means, prompted Energy 4 Impact to support Awa to develop a business plan and acquire further management and technical skills. Her business mentor also introduced her to a local micro-finance institution so she could apply for the loan she needed to cover the partial cost of the solar freezer. The rest of the cost was subsidised by the Fatick’s Regional Development Agency, which helps self-driven women like her to access solar energy technologies.

Since acquiring the freezer, Awa has launched the first cold trade in her village, selling both refrigerated and fresh food and drinks, including fruit juices and purees, enhancing consumption of healthy and vitamin-rich foods. “Soft drinks are very popular and selling fast,” Awa says ,”This means that I can recharge my freezer several times a day to meet the demand, and generate a good profit.

Her business’ turnover has increased from 80,000 francs ($138) a month to 200,000 francs ($345) a month, with a monthly net profit of 127,000 francs ($220).

Dominique Thiaw, Business Mentor of Energy 4 Impact, said: “With the profits made from her investment in solar refrigeration technology, Awa has been able to open another shop/canteen in the village market and she employs two young women to help her. There is no doubt that she will be able to repay her loan within less than two years. It goes without saying that her activity is a real accomplishment.

Awa’s ambition doesn’t stop here, she wants to acquire a second freezer to meet the high demand for fresh produce, such as yogurt and juices, and cool drinks. “Often, people from neighbouring villages come here but leave empty-handed because my products sell quickly. The freezer I have is small and it doesn’t allow me to store many products. So I intend to re-pay my loan quickly and apply for a second loan to buy a larger freezer,” says Awa.

She is also planning to set up a solar lantern rental station for school children so they can study in the evening and improve their academic performance, and at the same time help families transition away from kerosene and dry-cell battery lamps.

Energy 4 Impact’s business mentors will assist Awa with her business expansion and diversification strategy, as well as continue to provide management, technical, sales and marketing support to maximise the potential of her enterprises.