Lighting a Path to Financial Inclusion

Jessica Asiimwe at her shop that sells basic household items in the town of Masindi.

Through a program called ProsperBrightLife is lighting a new path to financial inclusion in partnership with FINCA Uganda. The new program is improving energy and financial access in Uganda by bringing clean and affordable household energy and responsible financial services to some of the most marginalized families. Through Prosper, Ugandan households can acquire solar home systems from BrightLife using pay-as-you-go (PAYGo) financing, which builds their credit history. This then opens access to savings, loan and other financial products from FINCA Uganda.

FINCA initially rolled out the program in the towns of Masindi and Mityana with an aim of putting enough solar products into the market to impact 1,000 lives in one year. With solid planning and hard work, FINCA hit the target in less than nine months.

The BrightLife clients who participate in the Prosper program have improved energy services and are creating credible credit histories through PAYGo financing. They are then eligible for a loan of up to 1,000,000 Ugandan shillings (about USD 275) from FINCA Uganda. These women and men literally are using the sun to build a credit history and access working capital loans that can benefit their business.

Lighting a Path for Jessica Asiimwe

Jessica Asiimwe is a 38-year-old business lady who runs a retail shop business in Masindi. She had heard about BrightLife’s solar home system a few years ago, but she had never seen one and did not believe that she could afford one. Then in mid-2019, a BrightLife sales agent came to Jessica’s shop. After reviewing her finances, he assured her that she could afford a system and it would reduce her energy bills. The agent also let Jessica know that Prosper would open a pathway to get a business loan. By the end of the conversation, Jessica was convinced, and she became one of the first beneficiaries of Prosper.

The decision wasn’t that tough. Jessica’s shop has been her main source of income for the past 4 years. She spends much of her day at the shop and works hard to grow the business. And she knew that when she eventually qualified for a business loan that she’d be able to put the money to work right away.

While Jessica had up to thirteen months to pay off the solar system, she didn’t want to wait that long. Saving her shillings, Jessica succeeded in making the final payment on her solar system in just seven months. She qualified for the one million shilling loan from FINCA Uganda and hasn’t looked back. This was a dream come true for Jessica! The business-minded Jessica invested the loan back in her small business to expand her inventory and to prepay rent for the premises to better manage her cashflow.

The Power of the Sun

According to Jessica the solar home system has been wonderful. She lives with her elderly mother and her two young children. Her daughter is nine years old and is in Primary 6. Her son is seven and is in Primary 4. According to Jessica, all four of them are making use of their newfound light. Her mother loves being able to listen the radio when she is home alone during the days. The kids can study after the sun goes down, and all four of them say that their house is much more cheerful and lively. With the four bright lights, they are able to catch up and share moments from their days.

Seeing the power of her solar system, Jessica now plans to buy another one to use at her shop. The system will allow her to reduce the costly electricity bills she struggles with. It will also ensure more consistent power than the overloaded grid can provide. Jessica has become a champion for Prosper (and FINCA) in her community, recommending it to her friends and family. But mostly she focused on lighting a path for herself and her children. Her dream is to continue growing her business, making it a sustainable enterprise she can pass on to her children.