- …the story of Kaniya Energy
There is an African proverb which says: ‘the rat does not get out of its hole in the day for nothing. It either pursuing something, or something is pursing it’. To bring it in the context of this article, this week’s Inspiring Start-ups features a young lady, Samuelle, who ordinarily would have remained in her comfort zone and enjoyed all the luxuries of life that her parents gave her. But she decided to challenge herself to provide solution to rural folks whose access to electricity is limited. Read on as she narrates how it all started to the B&FT Inspiring Start-ups.
Samuelle Asante, now the founder of Kaniya Energy – a business that provides safe, affordable and environmentally friendly energy/lighting alternatives, studied Geography, Economics and French for her A-level at the Ghana International School, and in 2017, proceeded to Ashesi University where she graduated with a BSc in Business Administration in 2021.
The birth of Kaniya Energy
Samuelle’s entrepreneurship drive sparked in 2015 when the country was plunged into power crisis popularly known as ‘dumsor’. Since then, she has been thinking of coming up with a solution that will help, especially rural communities, have access to power.
So during her time at Ashesi, she joined forces with other like-minded colleagues to start Kaniya Energy, leveraging lessons from their Foundations of Design and Entrepreneurship course.
“We did some research and developed the first concept for Kaniya Energy. This helped us to go on to the Hult Prize Regional Finals in Dubai to pitch our idea after emerging winners of the university round. Since then, I have been on an interesting and persevering journey with Kaniya Energy,” she said.
Even though her co-founders moved on to other projects and initiatives, Samuelle stayed with the start-up and focused on improving their initial prototype for a solar bag.
“A few months after returning from Dubai, the team disbanded. Alone, I picked up the project and have not looked back since then!” She said.
With the help of an initial focus group of people from the Berekuso community, she tested the initial product prototype and collated feedback. Samuelle then worked with a friend from the engineering class to implement the feedback and redesigned the solar bag.
“During the pandemic, we found a community with similar characteristics as Berekusu. This community was Korleman – currently, we are based there. We set up our first base in Korleman and a community team was set up. We conducted a survey to understand the energy needs of the community.
From then, the entire Kaniya Energy team has been working hard to ensure that members of the community get access to a stable source of lighting with Kaniya Kotoku,” she said, adding that: “I had used my funds to pay for all Kaniya-related activities all along.
Thanks to opportunities available to Ashesi students, I was able to secure some funding from The Fund for Service to Youth and Children – a fund set up by Ashesi, in collaboration with Ford Foundation, to support Ashesi-led start-ups/business ideas with solutions that support the livelihood/lifestyle of the youth and children in the community”.
Kaniya Energy provides credit financing plans for the household. As a Solar PayGo business, a family can pay a minimum of GH₵3 each day for the product. Each family pays an equivalent amount to what they pay for their current alternative to electricity.
“Our product, Kaniya Kotoku is a backpack made from recycled plastics, lined with Organic Photovoltaic (OPV) cell technology that powers an LED flexible study lamp, allowing a student to study for at least two hours extra at night.
“Our technology (OPV cell technology) makes our product unique. OPV cells are not the regular solar cells you find on the market. These cells are made from organic material to help reduce emissions to the environment. At Kaniya Energy, we are very concerned about the environment. Alongside the OPV cells, our backpacks are made from recycled plastics.”
Kaniya Energy is focused on contributing to Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 7 which is ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all; 8 that’s decent work and economic growth; 2 which is zero hunger; and 13 which advocates for urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
In the next five years, Samuelle hopes that Kaniya Energy develops other products that can help provide energy/electricity to an entire house or household. “We hope that we may have the opportunity to start tackling other forms of energy as well,” she added.
For Samuelle, finding the right team and skilled labour, and having access to adequate finance are key challenges her business is facing.
How government can support start-ups
Giving start-ups access to mentorship, in her opinion, is a crucial activity that will be very beneficial, further stating that with the right guidance and assistance, many mistakes could be avoided.
Again, she adds, government ought to assist in expanding the fundraising opportunities available to start-ups.
Also, she believes a crucial gesture that will be of great help in giving access to start-ups is access to mentorship.
Women’s economic empowerment
According to her, women’s empowerment is crucial because it alters the household lifestyle, and has a positive impact on the economy. She cited the example of a financially independent mother who would love to invest their income in their children’s education.
“With access to education, her children get exposed to many things. In the future, her children become national assets; working to make the country a better place. Additionally, the effect of women in entrepreneurship is huge. Not only can we work to fill certain gaps in the economy, we also affect the lives of many through the products/services we provide, employment, etc.,” she added.
Advice for prospective entrepreneurs
“I will encourage the youth to continuously think outside the box. One must not be confined to his/ her knowledge or field of study. It is important to stretch your mind and take the risk to try new things. No matter what you may go through on this entrepreneurial journey, keep persevering, and maintain your passion and zeal. The difficult times will surely pass away only if you persevere and work hard. Most importantly, commit the whole business to God. Pray to Him for the right strategies and solutions.”
Samuelle emerged winner of the 2021 Ghana Industrial Summit & Exhibition (GISE’21) pitch contest organised by The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) in partnership with the Volta River Authority (VRA).
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