Household solar in Malawi
with Maya Stewart
(Yellow Solar Power)

In this episode, we speak with Maya Stewart from Yellow Solar Power

Listen to us on Apple Podcast, Red Circle, Spotify, Stitcher or your favourite podcast streaming platform!

Show notes and related resources

Yellow Solar Power: company website

WEF article on how renewable energy can empower women in rural communities

Company overview: Startup Truth / Africa

Podcast Summary

We discuss:

  • The need for solar and off-grid energy solutions in Malawi

  • The importance of energy for gender empowerment

Podcast summary:

(1:15) Introduction to Yellow Solar Power, Maya's background in marketing and her start in solar lighting technologies, growing demand for solar technologies and shift towards SHSs; the lack of initial interest for off-grid companies to work in Malawi

(4:30) Concerns by solar companies working in Malawi due its low GDP; the beginning of Yellow working to provide electricity to 4m households; their use of PAYG / mobile money technologies and platforms

(7:30) Their lean, bootstrapped approach to starting the company

(8:30) Yellow's agent network: trying to minimise transportation costs; investments in providing news, branding, information and training of their agents; a local-focused approach in high population density areas; agents as the central point of contact for their customers for a 24 month relationship

(13:30) Yellow's digital retail approach: a remote structure, all agents are online and on Whatsapp; applications are all digital

(15:30) Progress of Yellow: Started in 2018 and their faster than expected growth; the importance of fundraising and selling 20k units by September and expecting 50k units by December 2020

(18:30) Their agent scout approach, to bring on new agents

(20:00) Their decision to focus on Malawi; the impact of deforestation in Malawi on the lake and hydropower, reducing the output and reliability of hydro electricity

(23:00) The gender impact in energy

(27:00) How lighting affects women: the need for women giving birth to provide lighting, to look after the sick, to support girl's education, providing security

(29:30) Their approach for trying to encourage more women to join Yellow: the need to have a smart phone to be an employee; their Project Khumbo to encourage women to join; how women agents can relate well with customers and build a strong customer relationship

(44:00) The impact of lack of education for girls in Malawi

(47:00) Maya's background, growing up in Kenya and her decision to move back to Malawi after university

(50:00) Where the name Yellow come from

(51:30) Recommended book/movie: 'The boy who harnessed the wind' - based in Malawi

(52:50) Advice: Understand your customer and know what they want and need; how solar can help to solve other social problems, e.g. urban migration

(56:00) Maya and her husband's love of travelling

(58:00) Prediction: huge growth in off grid electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa, with huge opportunity