Scene 4: Low Income Energy Services Task Team Meeting

Thursday, December 4th


Organizations are working to increase access to quality and affordable energy products to improve the livelihood of those in low income communities. The Low Income Energy Services Task Team (LIESTT) was created to begin collaboration and comprehensive evaluation to bring all the initiatives together. Right now, there is little correspondence and some repetition among these organizations in Cape Town, so the Task Team wants to coordinate programs to ensure key energy service areas are covered and to develop a business network. Since our team has been working to develop a sustainable entrepreneurial program to effectively sell energy efficient products in low income communities, Cindy invited us to present our project to the LIESTT as well as sit in on the meeting to hear the progress of the Task Team. We had five minutes to present the most important aspects of our project so we focused on the entrepreneurial business model, Pilot Programs, and the universal challenges we have encountered.

Cast of Characters

Cindy Jacobs is one of our sponsors and works for the City of Cape Town Office of Sustainable Livelihoods. Her Office is a member of the Low Income Energy Services Task Team, and Cindy invited us to participate in the meeting today.

Low Income Energy Services Task Team is a collection of City of Cape Town Departments, non-government organizations, businesses, and research groups dedicated to addressing energy access in Cape Town through structure and coordination.


The Low Income Energy Services Task Team met in the City of Cape Town office building on Wale Street. The conference room had a large circle of tables and a small projector. Seven other professionals from the government, civil society, and academia were able to make the meeting and were seated around the tables; it was a small turnout because of the upcoming holiday season.


When we arrived, Cindy gave the Task Team a brief introduction about the partnership the Office of Sustainable Livelihoods has with WPI. Once all introductions were made, the meeting proceeded normally. There were discussions on shack fire data and community electrification. Then the Task Team began to talk about the Wonderbag distribution efforts. Rachel and Tati were introduced by Andrew. They gave the short presentation about our project, the entrepreneurial business model we developed, the two Pilot Programs, and important challenges we had encountered. After they finished the prepared presentation, Rachel opened the floor for questions and comments. Andrew spoke first, congratulating us on our work and our success so far. Another member of the LIESTT asked about the payment plan; he wanted to know if there was a mechanism in place to encourage buyers to return and pay the second payment. Tati addressed this by pointing out that people would be returning on a daily basis because their children attended the crèche. The next issue that was brought up was the validity of the model. Sarah, in particular, was very curious about our distribution method because her previous efforts over the last 25 years to distribute the Wonderbags have not been sustainable. Cindy pointed out that Kiddies College Preschool, where the most Wonderbags have been sold so far, was run by two women who were already very entrepreneurial and was a crèche in a middle income area. Our team had not been able to visit Gege’s Creche to get feedback on the Pilot Program to validate whether the distribution method works at a crèche in a township or informal settlement. Sarah also asked about the uptake of Wonderbags through our program. Due to our short timeframe, we did not include that research in our scope of work; however, the City of Cape Town has done extensive research in this area proving most people are satisfied and are using the Wonderbag. Afterwards, it was suggested that we present to the Social Development Department to share our entrepreneurial business model. This would be an opportunity to discuss the possibility of supporting crèche leaders to become entrepreneurs and expand the existing network of crèches testing the model. The discussion ended with alternative energy products that crèches would be able to sell. Sarah recommended a product similar to the Waka Waka Energy, however it was only R259. She also had a distributer Terry who might be able to deliver the product to the crèches in small quantities. Then, Andrew invited us to look at the variety of products that the City of Cape Town had been given to test. There were around fifteen various light and cooking products. Although they have not rigorously tested the products, Andrew has an idea of which products will not be received well by the community. After looking at the products, the Energy Team suggested leaving some of these products at crèches to act as a trial run.

Reflection and Learning

The Low Income Energy Services Task Team meeting was extremely valuable for our project. The Task Team members had many useful insights based on their experience that they shared with us. Also, the questions asked were thought provoking, making us reevaluate some aspects of our business model and goals as we near the end of the project. We learned a lot from watching the other presentations and from the feedback the Task Team provided amongst each other on their own research. For example, another presentation informed us that, although a large percentage of Cape Town is electrified, paraffin is still frequently used. This was an important finding as it shows that the individuals we had interviewed for our project are outliers in the energy population. Also, there are a large variety of alternative energy products which may be available to the crèches. This is useful for the team moving forward as we are hoping to provide some sort of catalog with possible products to be sold at the crèches in the future.

Scene 5: Lunch at the Crèche