Rethinking market-based development approaches: increasing access to domestic-scale sustainable energy goods and services in sub-Saharan Africa
Davies, Gillian Louise
Low levels of energy access in sub-Saharan Africa and the acknowledgement of anthropogenic climate change have made sustainable energy products such as solar lanterns and efficient cookstoves a popular subject of international development programmes. At the same time, market-based approaches for distributing such ‘humanitarian goods’ have become increasingly prevalent. Based on ethnographic material from inside two development intermediaries, Global Village Energy Partnership (GVEP) International’s ‘Developing Energy Enterprises Project’ (DEEP) in Kenya and Uganda and SolarAid’s social enterprise ‘SunnyMoney’ in Malawi, this thesis argues that: 1) the complexity of applied market devices enhances inequalities between market actors; 2) the engendering of economic subjectivities within distribution chains can increase value-sharing; 3) there is space for both for-profit and non-profit ‘development’ intermediaries in marketisation processes, and; 4) further focus should be put on the promotion of domestic manufacturing. Stabilised market maps are used to present the activities of each organisation before turning to three frames of analysis that consider the problematisation, qualification and valuation of the energy products, the recruitment and training of supply chain ‘entrepreneurs’ and the specific market roles of development intermediaries, including provision of ‘brokerage’ services and as integral market actors. Bringing a theoretical vocabulary from economic sociology and science and technology studies into the arena of international development, the thesis reveals the extensive socio-technical configurations that constitute markets and create power asymmetries between actors. Without neglecting the vulnerabilities of the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ (BOP) as a ‘target group,’ it enhances our understanding of the shifts away from charity dependent beneficiaries’ towards ‘entrepreneurs,’ ‘customers’ and investment opportunities within sub-Saharan Africa.