Angelina Majama has many roles in life. She’s a pastoralist and farmer, a single mother of three, and a successful entrepreneur in her remote community in northeastern Tanzania. 

Majama wakes up early each morning to earn her living, selling milk from her three cows and farming her land before cooking meals for her children. Then, she runs her own business as a Solar Sister entrepreneur, selling solar-powered products like home-lighting systems and phone-charging lanterns throughout her village.

Solar Sister, a Cisco nonprofit partner, invests in women’s clean energy businesses to empower female entrepreneurs and build community resilience, lifting people out of the cycle of poverty. Solar Sister takes an innovative approach to achieve their mission of sustainable, scalable impact at the nexus of women's empowerment, energy poverty and climate change. The organization trains and supports female entrepreneurs like Majama in building sustainable businesses that bring clean energy directly to homes in their communities. 

After recruiting and training new entrepreneurs across “last mile” communities in sub-Saharan Africa, Solar Sister supplies them with a range of clean energy technologies such as solar-powered lanterns, solar lanterns that can charge mobile phones, and clean cookstoves. 

Selling these products directly to people, predominantly women, who lack electricity in their communities allows the entrepreneurs to earn an income. The relationship is mutually beneficial; the women in the program gain financial empowerment while their customers benefit from the financial, education, and health benefits of clean energy.

Majama’s income, for example, has allowed her to send her kids to school and support her family, build her house, and buy two acres of farmland where she raises animals and grows crops. 

“We are so grateful for Solar Sister, because this opportunity has given us an economic recovery,” says Majama, who is one of Solar Sister’s top-selling entrepreneurs, in a video about her work.

More than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity and over 700 million depend on harmful fuels such as firewood and charcoal for cooking, which can cause health issues, including respiratory and vision problems. Lack of access to electricity has a multitude of direct and indirect negative consequences on health, educational opportunities, and income generation. 

Women are disproportionately affected by energy poverty, as they often take on the burden of unpaid care. Increased light after dark allows more time to complete daily tasks, increasing productivity after the sun sets, and clean cookstoves save time spent collecting wood, money spent on solid fuels, and smoke output, significantly improving health outcomes. 

Independent research shows that Solar Sister’s model of female entrepreneurship not only results in income-generating opportunities for women, but also benefits health, education, and a woman’s status and control over resources.

As Global Citizen’s Global Technology Partner, Cisco supports nonprofits like Solar Sister by investing in early-stage technology solutions that have the potential to be scalable, replicable, and sustainable. Cisco grant support is helping Solar Sister leverage technology to enhance digital skills capabilities of their entrepreneurs and improve the efficiency of Solar Sister's operations to support their overall growth objectives.

The social enterprise and technology company TaroWorks — incubated at Grameen Foundation and also one of Cisco’s community partners — enables Solar Sister’s connectivity with last mile business operations in real time. The entrepreneurs use a mobile customer relationship management (CRM) and field office app to collect sales information and manage inventory movements in rural Uganda, Nigeria, and Tanzania. 

Angelina Majama, a successful entrepreneur with Cisco nonprofit partner Solar Sister, stands in front of her home in northeastern Tanzania.Angelina Majama, a successful entrepreneur with Cisco nonprofit partner Solar Sister, stands in front of her home in northeastern Tanzania.
Image: Michael Goima

Majama uses TaroWorks to keep records of her customers and track all the products she sells to them.

Since opening its first office in Tanzania in 2013, Solar Sister has supported over 6,977 clean energy entrepreneurs, reaching more than 3 million people across Africa with solar energy. 

Working with Solar Sister has helped Majama set ambitious yet attainable goals. She hopes to open up her own shop one day, selling clothing and additional solar products, and the income she’s generating now will help her to do it.

“Solar products have helped change my life,” she says.


Demand Equity

How Solar Sister Entrepreneurs Find Economic Empowerment While Fighting Energy Poverty

By Liv Starr