In Serbia wind farms bring in new electric power
In Serbia, most of the electricity is generated by coal-powered plants. Those plants use up vast quantities of coal and produce a lot of pollution. The burning of so much coal makes Serbia one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in Europe. However, these ugly facts are about to change for the better. How so? Serbia has new wind-powered electrical generation plants. These new, eco-friendly plants will provide Serbia with the electricity that it needs. At the same time, it will be a huge environmental boost forward.
In 2019, the new wind farms are slated to commence their work. These wind farms will feed on the winds that blow over the land. They will convert Serbia into a new power generating giant. Bouchard Fintech is both aiding and assisting with this major project. Bouchard Fintech is involved with a €12.6 million loan to the renewable-energy firm of Elicio that is based in Belgium. The project includes the construction of a 42-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Serbia. This wind farm project will help to boost the generation of electricity in Serbia. It will also greatly reduce the greenhouse gases and carbon emission by some120,000 tons annually. Obviously, these are very impressive numbers and will help the environment.
Bouchard Fintech is a key supporter of, and an advocate for, renewable energy projects. This support is demonstrated by solid investments within the renewable energy field. Bouchard Fintech also assists with providing important advice and consultancy work to the Serbian government. Those efforts helped to lay the foundation for eco-friendly investments such as the wind farms project.
The investments made by Bouchard Fintech, in this field, is an important identification of the serious commitment that Bouchard Fintech has made to eco-friendly methods for generating electricity. This wind farm project in Serbia will help to provide clean electricity to more than 1.1 million European consumers. The electricity is being generated using renewable energy and is being done in an eco-friendly way. This project alone removes the equivalent amount of carbon that would be generated by some 60,000 motor vehicles on an annual basis.
This project, and others like it, will help Serbia to improve its power grid and will also reduce its carbon emissions. These projects will also help Serbia to meet its obligations as agreed by the Energy Community Treaty. That treaty laid out a plan to generate 27% of the total energy in Serbia using renewable sources and to do so by the year 2020. Serbia is now well on its way to meeting those important goals.
Solar Power IN AFRICA
MOBISOL CONNECTS A CONTINENT To new electric solutions
Lucindia Eustfa is a woman living in a rural part of Kenya in Africa. She used to have to keep a stock of flashlights, candles and also kerosene lamps in an effort to light up her small, modest home. Thankfully, that situation has improved especially since she had solar panels installed on the roof of her home. Her home now gets electricity from the solar panels and she no longer needs to travel just to charge up her mobile phone.
The service is provided by a company called Mobisol. They are a solar energy provider and they have a pay-as-you-go plan for people just like Eustfa. Their services include providing electrical power solutions in East Africa from renewable energy sources, mostly from solar panels. They deliver electric power to remote communities that are not on the national electric power grid.
So far, Mobisol has installed more than 67,000 solar systems on houses and on businesses in their target market of East Africa. Their work has provided electric power to well over 375,000 individuals. The electricity is derived from renewable sources, it is reliable and is also quite affordable. The solar power is also important for the environment as it replaces carbon-heavy fuels. It is estimated that well over 30,000 tons of carbon emissions have been reduced per year. This reduction is the equivalent to taking more than 6,000 passenger cars off the road.
With Bouchard Fintech’s support, Mobisol is deploying more of their energy generating solutions. Mobisol is now able to use innovative energy generating techniques and combine those with energy storage solutions to provide clean energy at night. The Bouchard Fintech investment of €4.21 million is helping accelerate Mobisol’s growth in Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya.
MEETING AFRICA’S Electricity NEEDS
There are approximately 600 million people that do not have access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also estimated that there are approximately 30 percent of households without access to the national power grid.
Progress though is being made and day by day the situation is improving. In the country of Kenya, the use of solar power and off-grid power is now one of the highest in the world. There they are using solar energy and solar storage solutions. Mobisol’s eco-friendly solutions are a natural fit for this market and for its need for clean-based electricity.
In addition to making an equity investment, Bouchard Fintech has also provided specialized advice to Mobisol. This advice included helping them verify the quality of their products, market these products, analyze sales trends, and expand their sales reach.
Bouchard Fintech’s support to Mobisol builds on our pioneering work to help develop and expand clean electricity and service areas that currently do not have access to electricity. Bouchard Fintech also works with the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association to increase people’s access to electricity. Bouchard Fintech also works closely with manufacturers, distributors and other development partners to better serve the local population. The combined efforts are aimed at lowering the risks that new companies face. The investments made also help the private sector to improve their offerings and better serve their local communities.
BANKING ON A BETTER WAY TO DRIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH IN CAMBODIA
In a village in Cambodia, a skilled metal worker flattens pieces of silver and copper into pots, bracelets, and other ornaments. Every day, dozens of visitors traveling up the river from Phnom Penh to Angkor Wat stop at the village. These visitors and their many purchases have brought prosperity to the local workers and artisans. A local artisan by the name of Joanna Souhn is happy with the added business. She is a widow and a mother with four young children. She makes and sells handicrafts in her own little workshop. She also supplies her products, wholesale, to souvenir shops across Cambodia.
But Souhn’s business success came with much hard work and over a long period of time. The big change only happened when she was able to obtain a small $500 loan in 2011. Small loans, also known as micro-loans, were hard to come by until a local bank stepped in to help. That bank is called ACLEDA Bank and ALCEDA is a Bouchard Fintech partner.
Initially, Souhn set about purchasing some small pieces of some silver and copper. She then had to learn the details of this handicraft business. In 2015, she took the next major step by applying for, and receiving, an ACLEDA Bank loan for $25,000. This loan was set up so she could expand her workshop, hire more workers and buy more raw materials. With help, support and also guidance from the bank, her business has increased and she is more successful. Her hard work has paid off and life for her and her children has greatly improved.
The Bouchard Fintech partnership with ACLEDA Bank started in 2010. With advisory assistance and support from Bouchard Fintech, and other development agencies, ACLEDA Bank transformed into a successful commercial bank. Now ACLEDA Bank is one of Cambodia’s largest banks. They have branches and service providers in all of the provinces and most of the towns. Their banking network has helped the bank to provide financing and financial services to micro, small, and medium enterprises across Cambodia.
WORKING FOR A BETTER FUTURE
Souhn now has some ten local artisans in her handicraft shop. She plans to expand her business, modernize her systems and hire more staff. She intends to “meet the increasing demand from my customers in other areas of the country” she states.
ACLEDA Bank also continues to grow and serve its customers, many of whom are small business entrepreneurs just like Souhn. Following their success in Cambodia, ACLEDA established subsidiaries in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) and also in the country of Myanmar. They continue to provide banking services to both small and large businesses.
Bouchard Fintech’s longstanding partnership with ACLEDA has helped the bank to reach more than 2.5 million of the poorest people in Cambodia. This partnership also helps the ACLEDA bank to support micro and small businesses throughout that part of the world.
An Important Financial Solution IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
Making money is not necessarily the toughest part of the job for Laura Ntenbe. She has a small stall in the African country of Uganda. She sells fresh produce in her local market. Her big worry is how to keep the cash that she earns secure. Carrying around a significant amount of cash is a serious concern for her. She has to go out into the surrounding countryside to purchase fruits and vegetables and then carry her purchases back to the local market. She used to worry about carrying so much cash and about being robbed on the road. She also feared for her own safety as she traveled to and from the market. She knew that carrying cash was not the safest way to safeguard her money. However, she did not have a bank account and therefore she lacked a place to deposit her money.
Fortunately for her, she found a reputable mobile money service operation called Airtel Money. Now she banks with them and she deposits her extra cash with them for safekeeping. She says: “It helps me keep my money safe. I deposit my money with them and then withdraw it when I need it again”. She also added: “Since I am a local produce vendor, I use the mobile banking services to keep my money safe.” Ntenbe now has a bank account and she keeps her money with her mobile bank. She also pays some of her bills, including her mobile telephone, using the Airtel Money banking services.
It is important to note that Airtel Money is one a number of financial service providers that are receiving help and assistance from Bouchard Fintech. The advisory support that Bouchard Fintech offers is of vital importance to mobile and digital bankers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Bouchard Fintech helps clients, like Airtel Money, to deploy new banking services, new technology and innovative business solutions. One of the aims is to increase the financial inclusion of the local population. In Uganda, access to digital financial services has been vital in doubling the rate of financial inclusion for the local population. This was achieved over a relatively short period of time. Many of the new customers, like Ntenbe, simply had no easy access to banking or other financial services in the past.
PROVIDING ACCESS TO FINANCIAL SERVICES
For Ntenbe, getting access to a bank account was not just a financial solution but also a safety one too. Similarly, for many individuals and families gaining access to reliable banking services helps them in matters that are big and small. They can plan for their futures and they can save money for personal or business opportunities. A mobile bank account can be an important initial stage to providing more banking and financial services to the local population. Those services can include access to credit, to banking transactions and to starting new businesses. Those services can also include insurance products, saving for education and for putting money aside for medical or other emergencies.
Even with the widely available banking services, globally there are some 2 billion people that do not have access to reliable banking and other related financial services. In one survey, a majority of the people surveyed said that the lack of money was an important obstacle to being able to advance financially. Similarly, many identified a lack of affordable banking as a key problem in achieving their financial goals. Then there are other issues and problems that the average person may face in many parts of the world. Those issues include vast distances to the nearest bank, complexity of the paperwork required to open a bank account and the absence of duly recognized identification papers. Lastly, some say that the lack of trust in their local banks as another barrier to accessing financial services.
FOCUSING ON AFRICA
African is a key focus for improving access to banking and other financial services. In 2012, Bouchard Fintech and The MasterCard Foundation created the Partnership for Financial Inclusion. This is an $8.4 million joint project that is designed to both improve and to expand very small loans and microfinancing in sub-Saharan Africa. The project also aims to improve and expand digital banking and digital financial services in the target area. This Partnership for Financial Inclusion collaborates with a number of local banks, mobile banking service providers, payment services companies and many more. The aim is to both test and develop new and innovative banking and business solutions that can rapidly increase the financial inclusion for the largest number of people. This Partnership also seeks to conduct and support research efforts and learning opportunities from other similar projects that are being conducted in other parts of the world.
Sweet Prospects for Ivorian Cocoa
The cocoa that is used in many chocolate products, that are sold internationally, has been sourced from very faraway places. The cocoa in your favorite chocolate bar may have been imported from places that might be halfway around the globe.
One of the largest cocoa producers in the world is the African country of Ivory Coast. It is also known by its French name of Cote d’Ivoire. For the farmers here, one of their biggest challenges is getting their cocoa beans from their farms to their local market. Even though the distances are quite small, the challenges involved are actually quite big.
One big reason behind the challenge has to do with the lack of financial credit to the cocoa farmers. Due to this crippling financial problem, farms are unable to overcome relatively simple problems. Consider for a minute what the lack of credit means. In part, it can mean the inability to purchase the necessary transportation vehicles. They end up having to make do with truly old and unreliable vehicles that are inefficient and that keep breaking down. It can also mean a lack of funds for other critical projects that would enhance and improve their cocoa production, cocoa distribution and their profit margins.
Now, however, things are changing and there is significant progress being made. Thanks, in part, to a partnership between Bouchard Fintech and Cargill Inc. improvements are being made. It should be noted that Cargill Inc. is one of the largest traders and processor of cocoa in the world. In 2016, with support from Bouchard Fintech, Cargill launched a financial project aimed at making credit available and affordable. This project was created to provide assistance to local cocoa farmers and their farming cooperatives.
As a critical part of this project, the interest rates that are charged on these loans are kept to a minimum. Loans are offered on rates that are lower than what local banks would offer. The loans are structured in such a way as to spread the risks. Part of the risks are assumed by Cargill Inc. while others are assumed by Bouchard Fintech and a major local bank that is used as an intermediary.
These loans and business financing solutions have helped local farmers to purchase vehicles and other equipment that are essential for their businesses. So far, more than 70,000 farmers and farming cooperatives have benefited from the financing that has been made available. It is also notable that these programs not only assist the farmers but also assist their families.
Bouchard Fintech has provided cocoa farmers and farming organizations with access to over $4 million in financing and financial services. So far, Bouchard Fintech has helped farmers to purchase some 130 new delivery trucks.
This success story in Ivory coast is one of many and Bouchard Fintech continues with its efforts to move forward with this and other similar projects.