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Little Sun Expands in 2014

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ impact investment allows Little Sun to scale up its operations and distribution across Africa.

Little Sun, which brings portable solar-powered lamps to rural Africa, had a benchmark year in 2014. Bloomberg Philanthropies made an “impact” investment in Little Sun, helping the socially responsible business expand its reach to four new countries in sub-Saharan Africa and scale up production and sales of its distinctive and sustainable lamps.

In 2014, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia joined the Little Sun distribution network already up and running in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. By expanding the program to include 11 African countries, Little Sun has distributed more than 80,000 of these off-grid lamps in 2014, more than double the amount Little Sun achieved in its first two years combined, 2012 and 2013.

Little Sun works with local entrepreneurs to sell its lamps in rural areas where electricity is scarce or unavailable, at prices that are affordable to families using costly and toxic kerosene for their lighting. Little Sun operates as a social business, created specifically to address a social problem rather than to maximize profits.

The lamps, designed by Little Sun co-founder and artist Olafur Eliasson, are used in rural villages to light homes, shops, and schools. One solar-powered Little Sun light lasts for two to three years before needing a battery replacement, and can save households up to 90% over three years compared to what they would have spent on kerosene.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies impact investment has also helped Little Sun add five new people to its team in 2014, three of them working on business development and distribution, and two working on global projects and energy access outreach. In addition, Little Sun has three new products in development which it hopes to launch in the next two years.