What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Solar Street Lamps

So the main project that we are focusing on right now is solar street lamps for the city of Makeni. In looking at the three projects that I came back from Sierra Leone with this one seems to be the most attainable at this point.  Granted there is an awful lot to do between now and instalation, including sorting through Sierra Leone's entire governmental apparatus.  But as it is, right now it really looks to be the most feasible.  The brick project requires a lot in terms of expertise, local business infrastructure, and time in country.  It is also a commitment for a longer term production process.  The solar street lamp project on the other hand is a one-off endeavor with a definite start, end, and result.  This I think is best for setting up this business endeavor in Sierra Leone.  Lessons will of course be learned during the process that could easily be used to set up a better production scenario in our other endeavors.  It also can be a solid revenue generator in a shorter fixed term.  Source the lamps, ship them, install them, done.  It's obviously much more complicated, but not like the brick project's open-ended scenario including local production facilities, local sales teams, local distribution networks, local management, and permanent staff.  It is a huge commitment that needs time and planning.  By focusing on the lamps, we can work through the planning of the bricks at the same time without as much risk.

The Lamps are an intricate process as well though.  We have to source the lamps and the poles and ship them to Sierra Leone, where they will have to pass through customs and the entire African shipping process.  From there we have to arrange transport to Makeni and storage for them.  Local labor and materials will be needed for the installation and setup.  The lights themselves are easy to assemble and put up, but the poles would be more difficult as getting them set permanently in the ground brings challenges in a city that still shows some of the effects of war. 

All this is coupled with the governmental aspect of the project.  This would be an open bid through the governments procurement process.  Which I would imagine is a road that will have its share of winding turns...  Also financing the project will be quite delicate.  There would be some advanced governmental payment for the contract.  This would then need to be balanced with the down payments and extensions of credit negotiated with suppliers.  We may need to stagger the delivery and installation of the lamps in order to be able to balance the whole project.  This of course is not the way we'd want to do it as it would cost more on the whole in both money and time, but if this is what allows us to get the contract done, then it would be worth it to establish the company and its credit.  If we do a good job, there will be more cities looking for lights.  Have to start somewhere.  We will see...

But on the whole it seems like a good place to start.  Straight forward, one-off, deliverable project, with a good revenue upside.  With this one done, we could fund the brick making project, an internet/office facility in Sierra Leone, and set up Newburgh so we could run the diaspora funding network from there and then some local programs as well.  Giddie up!!    

1 comment:

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