Empower Malawi

Empower Malawi: Fishing Light that triggers economic development

London, Reuno UnidoNkhata Bay, Malawi
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Using a solar powered fishing light we have created a solution to allow fishermen to increase their profit levels, whilst simultaneously reinvesting in the community to trigger mass social and economic development. This allows communities to build healthcare systems, improve education and sanitation

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if a fishing light could trigger economic and human development, building schools, health centres and alleviating poverty?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We have identified that there are huge inefficiencies in the fishing industry. In Malawi there are more than 150,000 artisanal fishermen using paraffin based fishing methods to catch fish at night. The paraffin fuel they use is both environmentally damaging and expensive, sometimes accounting for up to 30% of fishing revenue. With the other 70% profit usually split between 6 and 10 fishermen, this leaves them with very little take home profit.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We have designed a solar powered fishing light, that is environmentally friendly, and cheap to run. Our analysis and research showed that fishermen could not afford the start up costs to buy a fishing light outright and the equipment to charge it, and so our solution allows the fishermen to use the products on a pay per use basis. Solar panels are installed at a school or charity. In return for their contribution to the programme, the organisation receives 50% of the profits, which is spent directly on activities to further human development of the community. This innovative pay per use model enables, despite the relatively high start up costs, fishermen to use the light at up to 64% less than conventional paraffin fishing methods.


University of Nottingham Innovation Award, Nacue Varsity Competition
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Castaway is a fisherman living in a rural Malawi. The village is completely off grid, with no phone service, electricity or road access. He is the sole earner from a family of 5, but his income is unstable. This technology allows fishermen’s costs to be reduced by 64% every night, ensuring a more stable, affordable and environmentally friendly fuel to be used for fishing. However now Castaway rents our fishing light meaning his costs are reduced by 64% allowing him to send his children to school and buy other basic necessities. 50% of the money he spends is invested back into his community. Castaway has seen a nursery running off the money he spends renting his light, allowing access to pre-school education for the whole community.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

We have a robust impact M&E framework which breaks down our impact into: Outputs- Work accomplished by the project. We have 3 light rental schemes up and running in three regions. This is reaching 11 communities, with over 7,000 total population with 350 fishermen renting our light. Outcomes- Immediate changes and social results from the initiative. We have recorded an increase in income by 60% for 350 number of fishermen. This has caused there to be an increase in attendance at school for the fishermen's children by 23% as well as an increased spend of 12% on healthcare, 8% on sanitation and 17% on food. Impact- Long term changes. We have extensive M&E indicators in place and have developed a log framework projecting the following: •Increase GDP $20,000 per community •Decrease unemployment 30% •Increase access to healthcare 87% of pop. •Increase access to education 76& pop.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our impact goal is to use our complete approach to progress the demographics of an entire area, by drastically improving the fishing industry to have a multiplier effect that impacts development as a whole, reaching education, healthcare access, sanitation, food security as well as access to energy. Our long term strategy is to provide depth and breadth to our impact by diversifying our product offering in the communities we currently work in, as well as expanding geographically to replicate this model across Malawi and other developing countries.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have a comprehensive sustainability plan in place in order to sustain and grow our business. The key to this, is through effectively pricing our products, ensuring that the cost of our assets can be replaced over their useful lifespan, whilst simultaneously keeping our price as low as possible. A key factor in this is the use of centralised solar panel systems, streamlining costs, allowing us to pass these savings on to our end consumers.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Many organisations have focused their efforts around providing access to house lighting to remove reliance from paraffin, there has been limited efforts targeted in other industries. This is particularly the case within Malawi, where very few organisations have focused on fishing as an industry. Of those that have focused on this, they have primarily focused on creating a high end product. However, we have found that for numerous fishermen, this type of high end design, that has only been created for sale rather than our pay per use model, is extremely unaffordable.

Founding Story

4 years ago while I was in Malawi, I was astounded by the reliance of whole communities on one industry: fishing. What was even more surprising was the fact that within this industry, they were all using outdated technology in paraffin lamps. This seemed from first viewing extremely inefficient, and further research showed just how expensive this fuel was in the context of a Malawian household’s expenditure. The combination of a whole community reliant on this one industry, and the outdated nature of the technology within it presented itself with a huge opportunity, to create a profitable business that could make a real tangible difference to people’s lives.


Currently we have three core members of the team: Daniel Kingscote Founder/Director Daniel graduated from the University of Nottingham with a Bsc in Business Management as well as a MSC Corporate Social Responsibility. He currently works on a full-time basis on the innovation. Daniels background centres around social enterprise in developing countries and has a significant amount of expertise in setting up and running enterprises that focus on international development. With a strong financial background Daniel manages the finances as well as the day to day operations. Lucy Harvey Director Lucy has a BA in Law from the University of Nottingham. She currently works for the organisation on a full-time basis. Her background consists of working for Accenture on technology and strategy consultancy and therefore uses these expertise within Empower Malawi. Due to her legal background Lucy leads the legal part of the organisation as well as focuses on the in country operations. Cherie White- Director Cherie has a Bsc in Business Management and a Msc in Corporate Social Responsibility from the University of Nottingham. Her background started in finance where she has worked for both Goldman Sachs and Ernst and Young within the corporate finance division. From here her work progressed towards social enterprise and Cherie has been involved in setting up and running her own social enterprises both in the UK and abroad as well as working on social development within GSK. Therefore, her expertise are within social enterprise strategy as well as impact measurement which is the part of Empower Malawi she leads on.
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Enactus Alumni Network

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:


Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Over the last 5 years, as well as working on Empower Malawi I have been heavily involved in a number of other initiatives.
I have been involved in founding a water purification innovation that I helped to implement in North West Cameroon to provide an innovative model for providing communities access to clean water. This also led to my attending of the G20 business challenge for water solutions in Australia last year. I have also successfully set up a house light enterprise in both Malawi and then scaled the initiative to Tanzania. Finally, I have been part of an educational social enterprise in the UK, Think for the Future, of which I am currently a Director. These roles and experiences have helped to build a strong knowledge in social enterprise and development, which will provide me the platform to scale Empower Malawi successfully into the future.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

In order to support and deliver on our vision, we engage a wide support team with a variety of backgrounds and expertise.

Firstly, we have received and continue to receive significant support from the University of Nottingham. As part of their Ingenuity Lab programme specifically for Nottingham Alumni, we receive business mentorship, as well as access to other vital consultancy services, such as legal and accounting.

Furthermore a key business advisor, Paul Norrish, who has significant expertise in the field of solar energy having worked to set up Solar Aid during his work with Solar Century.
Finally we have engaged and continue to engage Alumni from the organisation Enactus in order to advance our innovative business model, as well as focus on impact measurement to prove the changes which we are making in these communities.