Barbara Lyon | July 14, 2016
Accenture, the University of Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) and The Rural Development Company have launched the first solar-powered microgrids in the northern KwaZulu-Natal district of uMkhanyakude, South Africa, as part of 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. 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.