Off-grid solar home systems (SHS) are an emerging solution to the electrification of sub-Saharan Africa. According to Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA), globally, the off-grid solar sector has an estimated annual growth rate of 140% that is primarily driven by pay-as-you-go (PAYG) business models and 'plug-and-play' solar home system technology. With continued growth, the sector could support up to 1.3 million full time equivalent jobs by 2022.
Hiring and retaining qualified employees has been challenging for many solar home system (SHS) companies. These jobs include positions in management, sales and distribution, installation, repair, and technical maintenance. Challenges include lack of candidates’ technical and “soft skills”, lack of relevant and context-based curricula on off-grid systems at the certificate level, the inability of the sector to compete for fresh graduates with higher-paying established companies, high-performing employees being poached by competitors, and a lack of capital to invest in the continued training and professional development of current employees. Furthermore, in Africa, SHS solutions are often deployed in rural and remote areas where it can be even harder to attract and retain staff.
In the absence of qualified workforce candidates, some off-grid solar companies have established training programs to meet their individual company's human resource capacity needs, arguably detracting from their core business of sales and distribution. However, these programs vary widely based on a given company’s capacity, and no standardized curriculum exists across the industry in the region. Third-party organizations that focus on training offer a viable, and potentially more efficient and effective solution, but are not yet widely supported or utilized.
The specific objectives of this funding window are to identify and support scalable, innovative, third-party training solutions to the off-grid solar home system sector's workforce needs in sub-Saharan Africa.