East African Solar Energy Co-op in Tanzania
Written by Jordan Massa, a fourth year Computer Engineering student with a Global Social Entrepreneurship minor.
Jordan Massa is a fourth year Computer Engineering student with a Global Social Entrepreneurship minor. On campus, she is an RA and TA for Global Social Enterprise. Before her internship in Tanzania, she spent her first co-op at Flex in San Jose, California.
East African Solar Energy Co-op
I spent my second co-op in Arusha, Tanzania, working at the solar energy company Sikubora. It is a small company that sells solar home systems to off-grid Tanzanians, who pay over three years using the mobile banking service MPESA to send monthly installments of $20-$40 over SMS. This type of business is considered a “social enterprise” because it is a for-profit company whose mission is rooted in social impact. Sikubora serves 300 customers, most of whom live in off-grid rural areas. There are 40 million people in Tanzania who currently live without electricity. Sikubora operates now in the Arusha area, but hopes to expand upon receiving investment funds.
During my co-op, I was responsible for the internal business management software. I used SQL databases to store customer info and payment history, employee records, sales, finances, inventory, etc. I used PHP and HTML to write web interfaces for employees to interact with and pull information from the databases. In addition, I wrote investment applications for venture capitalists, and accompanied the Sikubora engineers on installations of the solar systems, which consisted of a 50-200 Watt panel, battery, charge controller, inverter, TV, and a handful of light bulbs and wiring. It was a wonderful office to work in, and I miss it daily.
I was fortunate to take some time to explore the beauty that I was surrounded by – I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru, saw Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater National Parks, visited Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, plus local waterfalls and daily perfection of Arusha. I miss the scenery, the mountain sunsets, the mangos, and the Swahili, but I mostly miss the people. Sikubora is very much a family, and it broke my heart to leave. In Swahili, “Sikubora” translates to “A better day.” It’s a fitting name for the best company I could’ve worked for.