Young Margreth is driven to succeed as solar energy entrepreneur
After completing the OYE training programme, Margreth Msumi (27) from Morogoro, Tanzania, started her own solar PV installation company. With a gentle smile she leads me to the home of one of her fellow group mates, Salum Juma. Margreth is careful not to dominate the conversation with her two other male peers, but behind her silence is a sure-footed young woman and role model to her fellow group mates. It’s only after her two male peers have finished talking that Margreth begins telling her story.
Margreth has always thought of herself as an entrepreneur and immediately started raising poultry after graduating from high school in 2007. The turning point for her came when she completed the OYE training in 2015: “The programme gave us some money (30 EUR) to buy and sell 3 solar light bulbs. I was able to find cheaper bulbs, that cost 3.50 EUR. So, I was able to buy more bulbs! I bought six bulbs in total for 21 EUR and was able to sell them with a mark-up of 10 EUR each, at a price of 13.50 EUR per item. In the end I took home almost €70!"
Margreth was off to a good start, but she did experience some problems following her initial succes. The first solar company supplied her with solar bulbs that she had difficulty selling. After a short period of trial and error, Margreth finally found a suppplier whose products suited her customers' needs. “I had just returned an order of bulbs I was not able to sell, when I heard about a women’s business conference in the city. At the conference, I met with agents from a solar company called Master Energy. I was able to order 20 light bulbs and pay from the profit I had made.” Margreth ordered and sold 20 bulbs, at prices ranging between €10-€13. She made a great profit and her business took off. She now orders bulbs worth almost €200 per month.
The increased income has enabled Margreth to explore and expand other commercial projects such as poultry farming and to secure a better life for her daughter. Currently, she has her eyes set on expanding her business by opening her own solar lights supply store in Morogoro. She aims to use the business and bookkeeping skills she gained through the OYE programme and secure a small loan for the shop.
Margreth is the only member of her group with a business bank account; she opened it after her OYE training. When the topic of securing a business loan comes up, it is met with skepticism by the boys as they fear the required collateral and the high interest rates which “enslave you for years.” After listening to her doubtful peers raise their concerns, Margreth tells them about a savings and lending group in town, called Black SACCOS group, of which she is a member. “I joined two months ago. I’m making €7.50 weekly payments to save up for a minimum deposit of €125. After I make the minimum, I can take out a loan that is up to three times the amount I have deposited.”
Margreth (left) with a customer
"I enjoy running my business, but it’s not always easy. Not all people have the cash money to buy a solar bulb. Sometimes farmers who have bought a bulb from me, can only pay me in kind, giving me a part of their harvest. I then transport the produce to town and sell it myself.” Margreth says she now sells cash crops like a pro and knows the market prices for all the major crops from beans to rice and wheat.
Another challenge she and her group mates often have to work around is the lack of transport: “Solar bulbs sell better in rural areas so I spend several hours travelling.” But some areas are too remote to reach even for Margreth. Nevertheless, she has a solution for this as well: “When I open my shop in town, I will be able to have a sales team who will help me reach more customers than ever before.”
Margreth is driven to succeed: “First and foremost I am a mother. If I’m not my daughter’s first role model, then who will play that role for her?”
With the OYE project, we aim to sustainably increase youth employment and incomes. Wo do so by:
- Providing disadvantaged youth in rural areas with life skills and relevant technical training (push factor).
- Linking youth to market opportunities for employment and enterprise development (match factor).
- Selecting opportunities in growth sectors that have concrete potential for employment creation (pull factor).
We work with youth organisations, vocational training centers, local government, and business associations to identify young people who are out-of-school and unemployed and then coordinate with training providers to carefully screen and select disadvantaged young people to participate.