Type de publication:

Book Chapter


Handbook on Frugal Innovations and the Sustainable Development Goals, Edward Elgar Publishing (2021)

Numéro d'appel:





energy, globalization, informal economy, low-cost, market (BoP market), social business, solar, value chain


The chapter looks at the markets of frugal energy technologies for off-grid population in Africa. It focuses on stand-alone energy solutions like solar lamps and kits providing energy services for domestic needs, a case study where innovations have taken up the challenge of large-scale market development. The first section describes the initiatives of start-ups and MNCs bringing new frugal technologies to address the African off-grid markets. It explores the variety of marketisation and distribution pathways developed by companies to increase the adoption of these technologies by local consumers. Then, it examines the development of a second segment of generic, non-labelled and low-cost solar products, spreading rapidly in local markets. This segment is based on other routes of entrance belonging to the “globalization from below”: imitation by Chinese manufacturers, imports by Chinese-African trading network and distribution through traditional supply chains of the informal economy. Facing this growing competition, social business leaders are challenged to develop more sophisticated products for higher consumer segments based on innovative prepaid business models. The analysis suggests that this reverse capture of frugal technologies can be seen as a way of scaling up frugal innovations. Value chains already embedded in local and informal economies provide solar products of a wider range of quality and price, better able to meet the poorest needs. Nevertheless, such trajectory of frugal innovation raises the issue of its relevance with respect to other frugality criteria such as the environmental sustainability.


Humanities and Social Sciences/Social Anthropology and ethnologyHumanities and Social SciencesHumanities and Social Sciences/SociologyBook sections

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