Celfre Energy provides high-quality and affordable renewable energy solutions for productive use, focusing mainly on solar water pumps for sustainable irrigation for smallholder farmers, solar-powered agro-processing machines and solar refrigeration and freezing for off-grid communities.
They have become the 100th organisation to adopt the Consumer Protection Code.
Can you tell us a little bit about Celfre Energy?
It was created in 2017 but we started operating in 2019. We are a Zimbabwean for-profit company. We offer renewable energy solutions for smallholder farmers and communities, and we focus on productive use of renewable energy solutions like solar water pumps, working specifically with women and youth. When people have lighting, they need sustainable livelihoods and we want to empower them to achieve this through energy access, decent jobs, improved incomes, improved health, gender balance, and reduction of emissions.
We have raised funds from institutions like EEP Africa and AECF for our operations. The next few months, we’ll be exploring refrigeration to reduce food loss as well as cooling systems for farmers, traders and customers.
We think customers need value for their money. There are a lot of bad quality products in the market that end up not working.
Why did you decide to commit to the Consumer Protection Code?
We think customers need value for their money. There are a lot of bad quality products in the market that end up not working. We want to work with good quality products and build trust. That’s why we chose to work with Futurepump, who are the first company in the industry to offer a 10-year warranty. They manufacture in India; we distribute their products in Zimbabwe, additionally providing customers with after-sales services. We now have clients coming from Botswana and Mozambique as well.
We inspire confidence in our products, which are certified, and we are proud that we take responsibility for the products also after they are sold. We think it’s particularly important to offer good quality and build trust around our brand because we work with the bottom of the pyramid. We need to make sure which product fits their needs and aspirations and that there are sustainable payment methods in place.
Have you done the consumer protection self-assessment and has it helped plan any improvements or changes?
Yes, we have already done the preliminary assessment and the results are quite positive. We are breaking down the results by team and our aim is to meet to periodically review progress on our commitments to make sure that we have acted upon the points of improvement within 12 months.
We inspire confidence in our products, which are certified, and we are proud that we take responsibility for the products also after they are sold.
What are the main challenges you see for your customers?
As we are within the productive use space, the equipment is relatively pricey, so customers cannot afford to make a one-time payment. They produce seasonal crops, so affordability and the ability to make payments while improving livelihoods are the main challenges.
We need to do the pre-work with the customer, check which technology and product works best for them, understanding the environment, the high cost of the products and the payments they will have to make along the way. We don’t want to exploit the customers and we want to offer them value for their money, while competing in a market with cheaper, bad products. We have to raise awareness about why our product is better than the one they are now using.
What products are they primarily using before they acquire yours?
There are mainly three types:
- Manually watering with buckets so they are not familiar with the tech and how it will work. This is about 35% of our customer base.
- Currently using diesel or petrol water pumps: with them the issue is to convince them that solar water pumps perform better. Diesel or petrol ones can be cheaper initially, but over time become expensive, with solar you don’t have to pay any extras for fuel or maintenance, so benefits outweigh initial cost. This would probably be another 35% of our customers.
- B2B with NGOs using solar water pumps in their projects. That would account for a further 30% of our customers.
Why is customer protection important to you and your company?
We want to run a sustainable business, not just for now but for the future. For the business to be sustainable, it needs to have a very good reputation. To create a positive brand image, we have to be responsible. Customers need to get good value for their money and we need to be known to offer a reputable and affordable product that helps our customers build a sustainable livelihood, not just short-term but also long-term.
Personally, I chair the Renewable Energy Association of Zimbabwe, making sure we have standards. We work with governments to look at standards, regulations and policies. We care about sector development and we want to be a leading player advocating for responsible practices.