Zonful is a Zimbabwean energy company bringing affordable solar power to the country’s off-grid, rural areas.
In a country with high youth unemployment, training is at the heart of Zonful’s business model. Trainees at Zonful’s academy learn how to install and fix renewable energy systems, but also marketing, finance and other business skills. Trainees come from rural communities affected by energy poverty, often with little education, and have flexibility in how long they study for.
Many trainees go on to work for Zonful and the company has created an app that allows trainees it doesn’t employ to find freelance work – matching them with commissions and opportunities across the country.
The impact of Zonful’s training is felt across Zimbabwe’s clean energy sector – the company works with NGOs and universities to boost skills and has helped thousands of people find work in its own teams and with its competitors.
Practical and affordable training
Zonful is bringing clean power to communities in a country where only one in five people in rural areas have access to electricity. The company has sold solar home systems powering lights, phone charging and water pumps to roughly 55,000 people.
It offers a month-by-month training programme in the marginalised communities in which it operates, where unemployment – particularly among young people – is a huge challenge. Topics covered in the training include the different forms of renewable energy, designing and installing solar systems, how to set up a small repair and maintenance business, and sales skills and bookkeeping.
The course is practical and features on-the-job learning – trainees can start earning before they finish their studies, which allows those with little money to take part. Many go on to be employed by Zonful as technicians or sales agents. All trainees undergo criminal records checks.
Helping trainees find work
With more than 6,000 people trained, Zonful is making a huge contribution to Zimbabwe’s clean energy sector – many workers in the sector, including those in leadership positions, are Zonful graduates.
One key innovation is a Zonful app that allows trainees not employed by the company to find work as freelance technicians and sales agents.
Members of the public can call a phone line, operated by Zonful, to register tasks such as installing a solar home system, repairing an existing one, or conducting a baseline energy survey. The job is then advertised to nearby agents and technicians via the app. Freelancers are paid directly by Zonful once the job is completed. The app also allows customers to rate their performance.
Working with communities and institutions
Zonful brings training opportunities to areas of high unemployment and works with local government, faith groups and community leaders to recruit trainees.
The company has developed a strong partnership with education providers including the University of Zimbabwe, Chinhoyi University of Technology and Midlands State University. And partners like SNV, a major development organisation, rely on Zonful to provide the skills that make their programmes possible.
Zonful has plans for international expansion but will continue its effective grassroots approach that brings work and clean energy to the most marginalised communities.
27 October 2022
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