IT services firm Accenture, in partnership with the University of Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) and The Rural Development Company, has launched a renewable energy program in KwaZulu-Natal district of uMkhanyakude, South Africa.
The program, the company claims, is the first solar-powered microgrids in the region thanks to the Connectivity, Electricity and Education for Entrepreneurship (CE3) program.
One solar-powered microgrid provides power for irrigation equipment in South Africa while a larger solar facility powers a pack house where local farmers consolidate yields and process and package harvested crops. This reduces the farmers’ overall burden of labor and operating costs, and enables the farmers’ cooperative to achieve crop yields large enough to supply commercial buyers.
The CE3 program serves as a catalyst for local economic development in these rural communities, the company said. It strengthens existing businesses, creates employment, and builds new businesses through the provision of clean, affordable electricity, Internet connectivity, and programs that train local residents in basic computing, entrepreneurship and workforce readiness skills.
The CE3 business model is sustainable in that it enables each site to cover its operating expenses, including the cost of maintaining the microgrid infrastructure.
Accenture has supported CE3 with more than US$2.3 million in contributions since 2012 through its corporate citizenship initiative, Skills to Succeed, which is equipping more than 3 million people around the world with the skills to get a job or build a business.
In 2012, Accenture and NDIGD introduced the CE3 project as a pilot program in rural northern Uganda – across three communities deeply impacted by decades of civil war. The current projects scale the model further in Uganda and into South Africa.
Accenture expects to train and mentor more than 3,350 entrepreneurs in information technology and entrepreneurship in South Africa and Northern Uganda, and help create approximately 2,475 jobs or start-up businesses by June 2017.
The participating organizations have ‘industrialized’ the CE3 model through the development of an assessment toolkit that measures local environment, regulatory and market conditions in order to adapt the model for a specific region. It does so by analyzing local needs and developing the financial model required to achieve operational sustainability and recovery of capital expenditures as the program is extended to additional communities.
“Our work with Accenture and The Rural Development Company in Africa is a model for excellence that delivers social, economic and environmental impact,” said Scott Appleby, dean of Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs. “Teaming with the private sector to foster economic and human development is a priority for NDIGD and the Keough School.”
As the program is scaled, Accenture and NDIGD are installing two additional solar microgrids in Northern Uganda that will power local schools, businesses and CE3 business incubation centers. Transitioning communities to renewable power will have the added benefit of reducing their dependence on costly and polluting diesel fuel and kerosene.