Malawi Solar Lights Project, Inc. is registered by the IRS as a 501.c.3 tax exempt charitable organization. The Corporation is also registered in the State of Colorado as a tax exempt charity..
A basic information website is established at www.malawilights.org so anyone can information about the Corporation and project.
In July 2016, the latest shipment of 1006 units (Solar Phase 4) arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi. This shipment, consisted of 590 of the K-016 solar home light systems and 240 of the L061 solar lantern. Included in the shipment are several dozen samples of two new solar table lamp products, the L001 and L058 which are being tested for reliability, durability, customer preference and lifetime. The better product will be introduced as a new low-cost entry product for about $10 USD.
The funding for this shipment was mostly provided by a 6-month, no-interest loan to the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), which represents over 3 million members in Malawi. The loan is expected to be paid back to the USA lender within six months of product receipt (so roughly by December 2016).
The CCAP Church changed the sales model for the solar products and now focus mostly on a cash up front basis. They included a maximum 3-month installment sale option where a product is paid for in full during that period before it is released to the customer. In the villages, the solar home system is sold for $45 USD and the lantern for $30. For Solar Phase 4, sales of the solar products is expected to minimize any bad debts.
In Northern Malawi, an executive committee in Mzuzu consisting of six people coordinates and manages the Project in Northern Malawi which has extended to project to all 23 Presbyteries. In central Malawi, the Nkhoma Synod a single Project Coordinator manages the Project for ten Presbyteries.
The Project is administered at the community level by a local, trained solar committee. Products will be sold at fixed prices in every village and any local household or small business can purchase a product for cash regardless of affiliation with CCAP. Most of these units are expected to be cash sales as demand is high. However, there is also sever famine in the country this year due to poor harvest earlier, so customers can only purchase the units now if the household has sufficient food security to afford the expense.
All sales revenues in each community are being placed in a dedicated bank account with the expectation that 90% of revenue remaining after the loan is paid off will then be ultimately combined from all participating communities so that another order, Solar Phase 5 can commence next year. In addition to the locally generated profits, any new grant money will help to subsidize product pricing to households or to donate product to rural schools and teachers. When all Phase 4 products are in use, it is expected the Project will be additionally improving the lives of over more 9,000 Malawians living in rural areas without access to grid electricity.
While he was in Malawi in July, Richard Keller personally visited some of the villages and schools to get photos, testimonials, etc. from the students, teachers, and homeowners who have received product. Reliability of the products continues to be exceptional. Of the 3000 units that have been in service up to 27 months, only 38 total have had reported technical problems. Most failures are due to premature battery failure because of excessive light usage by customers. Emphasis on improved customer training prior to receiving the products has been initiated. Other repairs were easily accomplished in the field. Only three units has failed beyond repair from a premature component failure. These were replaced at no charge under manufacturer's warranty.
The Project has trained15 solar technicians to service the solar products at key locations. In addition, Mr. Keller performed detailed training for some solar technicians who can now train others to test, repair, replace batteries, etc. in community locations within their region. He included training on management of spare parts and charging of replacement battery inventory.
Locally, suitable replacement batteries for the L061 solar lantern (retail price about $10) and the L055 solar lamp (retail price about $4.50) were located.