Aidex Voices

AidEx 2016 exhibitor Little Sun, creators of the Little Sun lamp and Little Sun Charge, do more than just provide solar lamps to vulnerable communities – they also work to create local businesses, jobs and profit in off-grid areas.

Founded in 2012 by artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, the Little Sun global project aims to harness the power of the sun for the 1.1 billion people who live without access to safe electricity. Thus far, Little Sun has been involved in 25 humanitarian and impact projects worldwide, with their solar lamps often being distributed as part of emergency relief or health kits with partners such as UNHCR and Oxfam. The solar lamps have proven to be very useful to refugees and IDPs, with women in particular praising the lamp for keeping them safe after dark and enabling them to nurse their children safely. As of May this year, almost 440,000 lamps have been sold, benefiting over a million people across the globe. 

Little Sun is a social business that supports and enables young African entrepreneurs to shape not only their own futures, but also those of their communities and countries. The Little Sun business model aims to generate profit for local enterprises and users by focussing on the long-term goal of building profitable local businesses. For every Little Sun lamp sold in an area with access to electricity, one is made available at a more affordable price in an area without, which has led to a network of over 600 sales agents in sub-Saharan Africa so far. The business provides starter kits and micro-entrepreneurial training to qualified sales agents in around 10 focus countries, equipping them with the skills necessary to build a successful local enterprise. 

Many small businesses have seen an increase in sales since being able to expand their opening hours thanks to the lamps, whose light is up to ten times brighter than traditional kerosene lamps.

Little Sun also works with global partners to support communities without electricity, as well as building an online education programme to teach young people the benefits of clean, sustainable energy and living methods. 

The emphasis on local individuals is demonstrated even in the design of the product – the Little Sun is the first solar lamp to incorporate both aesthetic and practical feedback from off-grid African regions, having been designed in close collaboration with users in Ethiopia. It’s clear that the impact on local users and communities is at the heart of Little Sun’s business model.