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Social Enterprise Bringing Solar Power to Mexico’s Off-Grid Communities

Iluméxico, a Mexican social enterprise focused on solar power, has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to bring its Solar Home Systems to 50,000 off-the-grid rural homes — approximately 300,000 people — by 2020.

This commitment includes the creation of 180 new jobs, of which 90 will be designated for women and 70 will be based in rural communities.

The company said it plans to increase its “ILU Centros” support network from 5 to 50 locations nationwide and strengthen alliances with both public and private institutions. Anticipating up to 70 percent growth within the next five years, Iluméxico also plans to expand its business into two new Latin American countries by 2020.

More than three million Mexicans, or 600,000 households, live in remote, rural locations, Iluméxico said. Their geographic location and isolation make it difficult and expensive for government infrastructure and electrification projects to reach them. Iluméxico’s business model taps into this unmet need through the design and manufacture of a wide range of solar systems for bottom-of-the-economic pyramid markets.

Approximately 60 percent of Iluméxico’s customers are indigenous and all live in isolated areas in communities of less than 100 households, the company said.

Starting in 2010 as a conventional philanthropy, the company has transformed itself into a for-profit social enterprise, which has enabled it to advance technologies and diversify its product portfolio to meet customer demand. Iluméxico’s last-mile distribution strategy reaches remote communities through a hub-and-spoke model that employs local technicians and provides customers with flexible financing.

This model allows clients to save up to 10 percent of their monthly incomes and reduce the use of polluting and hazardous lighting sources such as diesel and candles, the company said. It also provides environmental awareness, financial education and community organization workshops.

BCtA is a global initiative that encourages companies to fight poverty through innovative business models, supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other international organizations.

In July, Indian healthcare social enterprise Sevamob, joined BCtA to reduce anemia by 30 percent, HIV transmission to children by at least half of the national average and dental issues like caries by 25 percent, in the areas where it is active. The company provides mobile clinics and a tele-health marketplace to expand access to healthcare services.

In Ghana, BCtA-affiliated technology provider Farmerline is helping to empower 500,000 small-scale farmers in West Africa to advance their livelihoods by accessing information that helps them to improve their harvests. The company also plans to provide a specialized mobile communication and data-collection platform to 5,000 development organizations and agribusinesses by 2019.

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