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Elsie Onsongo is the Manager of the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa – Kenya Hub. Her research interests relate to innovation for inclusive development in sub-Saharan Africa, with a current focus on frugality, inclusion and sustainability in healthcare and energy access. In her energy research, she focuses on developments around modern energy cooking services and off-grid energy in East Africa. Elsie has a PhD from Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany, and she previously worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She has been a visiting research fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, UK, and has worked at Strathmore University in Kenya in various teaching, research and administrative capacities.

Summary of the presentation:

Approximately 573 million people still lack adequate access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 calls for action to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030. Meeting this need is a challenging task given that electrification, particularly in rural areas where most un-connected households live, is capital intensive, and demand is unproven. Nevertheless, research and development in this area has yielded promising frugal innovations, among them, off-grid solutions such as mini-grids and solar home systems. The presentation will explore some of the challenges and opportunities that incumbents and start-ups in East Africa face when deploying technological innovations in off-grid areas, the business models underlying them, socio-cultural factors that influence the demand for and use of off-grid solutions, and a brief commentary about enablers in the policy environment.