A few weeks ago, I received an award for “best development relevant master thesis 2018” at Hasselt University. Also, my master thesis was placed on the longlist of the “Vlaamse Scriptieprijs 2018”. But what was my master thesis about? A short summary is provided below. However, if you want to learn more about it, you can find the whole thesis here. Or you can ask me about it.
Did you ever spend 12 hours in the dark, without any light? Well, I did. Together with 5 million Togolese people, for whom this is daily reality. Togo is a West-African country where only 21% of the population has access to electricity. Problematic, isn’t it? So I wanted to do something about it.
For my master thesis, I decided to not only do a literature review, but also to try to make a real contribution to people who can use it. Therefore, I decided to jump in on a project to provide sustainable energy to a rural development centre “Sichem” in Togo. Even though most of the built installations do not have technical shortcomings, it showed already in the past that they tend to break down quite fast due to e.g. a lack of maintenance. To make sure this would not happen at Sichem, I looked for a solution. It was necessary to provide an extra incentive or motivation for Sichem to compensate the extra efforts that come along with the solar panel installation, like the maintenance. This extra motivation was chosen to be a powerbank that could charge small electronics such as (smart) phones and radios.
However, by just providing these powerbanks, the problem is not yet solved. A business plan needed to be developed as well so that the management of these powerbanks would be as optimal as possible. A renting system with 20 powerbanks was chosen as the best incentive. 1 powerbank can be rented for 2.500 CFA and a deposit of 1.500 CFA is asked upfront as well. The costs are estimated to be 1.414 CFA for 1 recharge of the powerbank, which makes it possible to make approximately 1.000 CFA profit every time.
The final result is a developed business model that enables Sichem to make profit and to finance a new employee to take care of the maintenance. This leads to a long term energy provision through the solar panel installation and thus Sichem will not suffer from these breakdowns anymore. Moreover, Sichem can even help the surrounding villages in their further development by providing a better access to electricity.
I am still really satisfied with the result of this master thesis: Sichem and the surrounding villages are helped with the installation and I had the chance to broaden my horizon and travel to and stay in Togo for 6 weeks. During these six weeks I learned more about other cultures, I could practise my French and I got to know many people. I am still very grateful for the help I received during these six weeks and during my whole master thesis. I am proud that I could be a part of this beautiful project.