Localising the solar value chain in Kenya?

Elder Davy*, Ulrich Elmer Hansen, Ivan Nygaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

The debate on the benefits of renewable electrification in late industrialising economies has mostly focused on improved electricity access and climate mitigation arguments. The literature has paid less attention to understanding the opportunities for sustainable industrialisation, understood as the enduring localisation and development of 'green' industrial activities. This paper contributes to the latter with insights from a single case study of Solinc East Africa Ltd, a Kenyan solar module manufacturer that has managed to remain in the market, despite intense competition from imports of low-cost solar panels. Drawing on in-depth fieldwork, including 21 interviews with firms and various stakeholders in the solar energy sector in Kenya, we apply a global value chain framework to explore how and why Solinc has been able to sustain its business. Our findings highlight the challenges of localising solar manufacturing in Kenya and suggest it may only be possible in rare instances. Specifically, the case study revealed a unique combination of circumstances and factors that enabled Solinc to gain several advantages including (i) initial access to knowledge and material inputs from upstream linkages; (ii) downstream integration and partnerships with key distributors and customers; (iii) close proximity to customers; and (iv) provision of complementary and increasingly high value-added services. Our findings present a more positive perspective on the localisation of related services, which we argue deserves more attention in the sustainable industrialisation debate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInnovation and Development
Volume14
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)217-240
ISSN2157-930X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Keywords

  • Global value chains
  • Solar PV manufacturing
  • Kenya
  • Renewable energy
  • Sustainable industrial development

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