Two projects developed by Schneider Electric in the context of BipBop, its access to energy program, were chosen to participate in the “Africa Forum – 100 innovations for sustainable development” that took place in Paris on 4th and 5th of December 2013. This forum was initiated by the French ministry of foreign affairs, prompted by the deputy minister responsible for development, Pascal Canfin, in partnership with the French Development Agency (AFD).

The “Africa Forum – 100 innovations for sustainable development” aims to highlight innovative concrete examples and practical solutions on a national or local scale, in such varied fields as health, the environment, agriculture and food safety, education and new technology. In addition to the entrepreneurial nature and economic viability of these innovations, their contributions to sustainable development and their social and environmental dimensions are recognised.

One of these projects is an “Energy and Microfinance” project in Cameroon – Sponsored by the Participatory Microfinance group for Africa association (PAGIMA), this project consists of offering micro-credit solutions in rural and urban areas to finance the purchase of solar solutions. Such schemes can boost the economic development of individual tradesmen and small businesses. Schneider Electric provides solutions which meet the needs identified by microfinance institutions (MFIs) and uses its local partners (distributors, integrators, installers) to assure the customers of these MFIs of the availability of these affordable solutions, combined with an acceptable quality service. The customers of these MFIs are offered two types of credit; “light” credits which offer low-energy solar lighting systems; and “energy” credits, designed to provide solar solutions suitable for the needs of an income-generating activity. This project has also been initiated in Tanzania and Ethiopia.

The other project selected is a decentralised rural electrification initiative at Abu Monkar in Egypt. This Schneider Electric project paved the way for development of the first solar power plant built in the Egyptian province of New Valley. The solar power plant at Abu Monkar, built more than 120 km from the nearest grid, delivers 108 kWh/day, enough to meet all the village’s basic needs (school, mosque, homes, etc.). Schneider Electric also trains the residents of Abu Monkar to ensure optimal operation and maintenance of the power plant.

“The strength of the BipBop program relies on the combination between the R&D capabilities of Schneider Electric and the engagement of our local employees who all know perfectly their own countries’ problematic and ecosystems. Answering the rural energy challenge is key both for the continent’s economic development and for the people who directly benefit from light, from a better agriculture, education or healthcare,” Mohammed Saad, president of Schneider Electric in Africa, says.