A Social Business Incubator In The Eastern Congo


Washikala is young, bright and ambitious. He was born in Baraka in South Kivu during troubled times and spent most of his childhood growing up in a refugee camp. There he met Longwa who is now his business partner. NGOs in the camp schooled the two boys and selected them for a university place in Dar Es Salaam. After they completed their studies they returned to Kivu and started a business called Altech that sells solar lamps to customers living in poor households.. 


altech's Mission


90% of D.R. Congo’s population live without access to electricity and there are more than 13 million off grid households. Even those with electricity experience frequent power blackouts and have to resort to using kerosene lamps or candles which all to often cause injury, illness and sometimes death. The country’s under- electrified households constitute today the world’s poorest and energy poverty contributes greatly to many socio-economic and environmental problems including income poverty, poor education and health outcomes. These issues make it difficult to achieve other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Altech aims to become the most prominent private-sector player in the business of eradicating energy poverty in the DRC. The company has an ambitious goal of reaching 2 million Base of Pyramid (BoP) customers i.e. off-grid and under-electrified households and institutions serving them – schools, health centres, businesses etc. by 2020, while positively impacting the lives of more than 10 million people.

Ensemble SUPPORT


When Ensemble met Altech in August 2014 Altech had sold 7,000 d.light S2 lamps. Washikala put forward a vision and business plan that made a lot of sense and Ensemble provided a loan of $30,000 to order 15,000 lamps. Altech however successfully agreed a credit arrangement with the importer order a full container of 32,000 lamps, stretching Altech’s logistical capacity and requiring new hands to set up distribution points in North Kivu,

It worked. The full shipment was distributed and sold and the loan repaid.Since then Ensemble has recycled the loan agreement three times and increased the amount to $60,000 with the result that Altech have now profitably distributed a total of 110,000 lamps.

Altech have a workforce of seventy people and with Ensemble’s help they have introduced smart phones that enable sales people to use an open source mobile app for recording sales data.

Ensemble is about to develop a training module that is accessible by sales ambassadors for Altech on their smartphones and in addition, Altech have recently begun a collaboration with ELAN RDC and Ensemble to explore the adoption of pay-as-you-go business models.




Altech has sold more than 110,000 solar energy products since it’s launch and impacted over 500,000 lives. The lamps are cleaner and safer than kerosene and candles and pay for themselves inside two months and Altech estimate that each month a saving of $5-7 is made.

The lamps are used by shop owners for selling after dark, by teachers to prepare lesson plans whilst children can do their homework. Women can cook, doctors are able to carry out medical procedures and nurses are able to catch up on paperwork. There are even cases of operations being enabled by the light from solar lamps.

As a business Altech now employs three hundred people in the role of sales agents. These are young people between the ages of 18 and 35, mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds.

They are amongst a generation who will improve the future for Congo. It seems that momentum is building across the continent to bypass the electricity grid and generate power for lighting, heating and cooking from solar, which is surely a good thing in DRC and Altech are stepping forward to take the lead.