Up to 33 million in Africa and Asia to receive access to solar energy

Feb 16, 2012

New York — Up to 33 million people living in poverty in Africa and Asia will gain access to low-cost solar energy by 2016 following a commitment made by solar power provider ToughStuff to the Business Call to Action (BCtA) today. The BCtA is a global initiative that encourages private sector efforts to fight poverty, supported by several international organizations including the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

With headquarters in Mauritius and offices in East, West and Southern Africa, ToughStuff seeks to expand access to low-cost, durable solar panels and solar battery packs to low-income communities in 10 African countries— Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, South Sudan,  Zambia and Zimbabwe— and four Southeast Asian countries—Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal in the next four years.

The company expects to help consumers who previously relied on kerosene or biomass fuel to save a combined total of US$520 million on lower energy costs while reducing carbon emissions by up to 1.2 million tonnes by 2016.

“Companies like ToughStuff invest in communities by providing cleaner, healthier energy options through core business operations,” said Susan Chaffin, Programme Manager for the BCtA.“This commitment will help to boost development and improve social equity in a sustainable way that is good for the environment and good for business“

Nearly half the world’s population lacks reliable access to modern energy services. And more than 20 percent of the global population, or 1.4 billion people, remain without access to electricity; in the majority of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia, depending on wood, charcoal, animal waste or biofuels such as kerosene for energy. By 2030, household air pollution from the use of biomass fuel is expected to cause more than 1.5 million deaths a year, according to a recent UNDP report.

ToughStuff aims to reduce the impact of lack of energy access for millions of people by bringing its solar-powered products directly to low-income communities through commercial and alternative trade channels including its “Business in a Box” model, which relies on a network of village-level entrepreneurs that are provided with training on how to sell, rent or provide access to affordable solar energy services and products.

Since its launch in 2009, ToughStuff has helped to create thousands of new business opportunities for rural entrepreneurs. Its products have reached over one million people in Madagascar, helping customers save over US$5.85 million in energy costs.

“Today’s ambitious goal underlines ToughStuff’s commitment to produce quality and affordable products that will change the lives of millions of people living off-grid globally,” said Andrew Tanswell, CEO of ToughStuff. “To make this happen, and at the scale we intend, we are actively building commercial partnerships with large distributors, telecommunications companies, retailers and others with an interest in bringing energy, along with all of its benefits, to those who don’t yet have it.”    

Since its launch in 2009, ToughStuff’s products have reached over 1 million people and helped its customers save over $5.85 million in energy costs.

This initiative will help to further the goals of the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative which seeks to boost access to energy while protecting ecosystems. 


Business Call to Action (BCtA) is a global initiative that seeks to challenge companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for development impact along with commercial success. The initiative is the result of a partnership between the Australian Agency for International Development, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the UK Department for International Development, the US Agency for International Development,  UNDP, the UN Global Compact, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the International Business Leaders Forum to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Companies report on progress toward commitments on an annual basis.

ToughStuff provides portable solar power for the developing world and for humanitarian crises. 1.4 billion people live without access to electricity, relying on expensive, unsafe and polluting alternatives. ToughStuff supply people in the developing world and international development and relief organisations with affordable products and training for high-quality solar panels to charge lights, radios and mobile phones. These tools help communities cope with emergencies, and low-income people to not just save money but make money.  


Contact information

ToughStuff: Vicky Emmett Victoria.emmett@toughstuffonline.com,
: +44 270 261 0983

BCtA: Lorin Kavanaugh-Ulku lorin@businesscalltoaction.org
Tel: +1 703 587 3219

UNDP: Carolina Azevedo carolina.azevedo@undp.org
Tel: +1 212 906 6127

UNDP Around the world