Israeli NGO to donate 16 million solar lanterns in Ethiopia

Nervousness in the Ethiopian solar sector: an Israeli NGO is planning to distribute a total of 16 million solar lanterns to rural households at a symbolic price of USD 1 over the next five years. The driving force of the project is the Israeli company M.M.L Itamar Holdings LTD from Gazit, which also calls itself a solar enterprise. However, there is no useful website or any other trace of their solar activities.

16 Millionen solar lanterns for 1 USD
The program is as reckless as bizarre:

  • 16 million solar lanterns ("Compatible with international standards") are to be distributed in the regions Amhara, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP).
  • The lamps give light for 8 hours.
  • The guarantee period is 10 years (!)
  • Households will receive the lanterns at a symbolic price of 1 USD (discount of 90%)

Logistic Centers for local distribution
The distribution will be made via 532 "Community Logistic Centers". Their tasks are very comprehensive:

  • Exchanging old kerosene lanterns for solar ones
  • Old lanterns will be recycled and the money will be given as aid to the community
  • Technical and warranty support
  • All lanterns will be renewed with no additional payment after 5 years
  • Workshops and lectures on various subjects
  • Recruiting additional companies specializing in farming, in order to provide local courses and instructions.

A total of 2,500 jobs will be created this way, 1,500 of them for women working in the Logistic Centers. These are located in each woreda, and will be led by a representative from the local community. A solar system will be installed on the center’s roof, which will allow the center to produce 5kW of solar energy. In the night-time, the centres will become "light centres" and will provide lighting / electricity to the surrounding area.
These are the official managers of the project:
– Lilia Reznik, CEO of BUC Green Eco Solutions Limited (Malta)
– Michael Meta, CEO of M.M.L Itamar Holdings LTD (Israel)
– Almaz Tsehame, Manager at Fanus General Import & Export Trading Agency (Addis Ababa)

With support of governments
In view of the incredible size of the project and the financial resources required, we could quickly suspect these are charlatans or braggarts. However, the project has high protection from the political side: already in December 2015 representatives of M.M.L Itamar Holdings LTD met with the experts from the Ethiopian Ministry of Environment and Energy. Afterwards, the company began together with the Ministry of Energy mapping the regions to locate the distribution center for solar lanterns.
The Israeli government is also involved: A presentation of the project was given in Addis on Tuesday by the Israeli ambassador. The project can therefore hope for support from the two governments, which greatly increases the prospect of effective implementation.

A disaster for the local solar economy
After SkyPower in Kenya, a second, even larger, donation project is being developed, which qualifies for severely damage the local solar economy. 16 million solar lanterns distributed almost for free mean the end for every other solar lantern distributor in the concerned regions.
However, the project managers of M.M.L Itamar Holdings LTD prudently do not comment about how many existing jobs will be destroyed and how much of the already existing economic infrastructure will be ruined. They follow the motto: do something apparently good, no matter what you will destroy.

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