Over 93% of the population in rural Zambia have no reliable access to electricity and clean water. A climate change related drought has aggravated the situation and additionally threatens water and food supply in the country. A small number of solar PV off-grid/mini-grid solutions have been installed in Zambia in recent years to tackle the challenge of limited energy access in rural areas but most of these projects are not economically or environmentally sustainable.

Reasons for this are a mismatch between community needs and affordability on the one hand and the design of the energy projects on the other. To date, most projects are not designed in a way that connects energy access to other development goals. If projects continue to be developed in this way, they will be unable to deliver sustainable impact to communities who are facing complex challenges including low and seasonal income levels due to unsustainable farming methods, a lack of water, and a lack of agro-processing opportunities.

Findings from the GCRF project 'RISE - Renewable, Innovative and Scalable Electrification' led by PI Dr Aoife Haney indicate that successful off-grid energy projects require interdisciplinary approaches. Consequently, the project 'Mumuni-Singani' as a direct spin-off from 'RISE' aims to overcome these challenges by transferring the research findings into actionable results and developing an integrated concept for solar PV pilot-projects in Africa. The innovative model combines access to clean energy, irrigation systems and sustainable farming-/agro-processing solutions through an interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach. The concept is based on a value chain approach, which includes innovative financing mechanisms for productive use appliances that enhance and diversify the economic basis of local communities. It will be developed in close cooperation with local communities, especially through the involvement of Women Self-Help Groups. The focus area is Singani, Zambia with a potential to scale the concept across Zambia and other regions in sub-Saharan Africa.

This project, which runs from March to December 2020, is supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).


The project has four central objectives:

  1. Design of an optimized integrated business model for the sustainable operation of solar PV mini-grids in Zambia and enhancement of local socio-economic growth.

    Overall project design and economics including:

    1. clean energy provision through solar PV mini-grids, integration of the 'Mobile Power' component (system layout/energy needs assessment),
    2. development of multi-stakeholder engagement plan,
    3. development of business models with/for local entrepreneurs and women's groups (surveys, focus group discussions, analyses),
    4. establishment of innovative models for appliance provision,
    5. development of irrigation solutions,
    6. integration of all components in the overall project.

  2. Extraction of key learning lessons from phase I (research) and analysis of regional scalability of the concept: documentation and evaluation of the project development process, documentation and publication of critical success factors, framework for future research design on RE project development in Africa.
  3. Local capacity building among researchers at UNZA to provide practical insights on renewable energy project development; development of further joint research projects.
  4. Development of the specific implementation model: implementation process outline, establishment of formal operation committee incl. defined roles, commercial considerations & practical operational model, sensitization of stakeholders, definition of KPIs, risk-mitigation, acquisition - & coordination of additional external partners.

Further Information

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Dr Susann Stritzke.