One billion people worldwide lack access to electricity - remote and isolated regions are especially affected by this. For this reason, our TUM master students Ekaterina Braun and Anna-Sophie Kreipp decided to conduct their project study in Rural Uganda. As part of an academic exchange program, they spent four weeks there to investigate how rural electrification influences entrepreneurial activities in the remote village of Kyampisi. This is where TUM SEED Center has constructed a solar mini-grid, which will be put into operation soon.
"First, we spent five days in the capital Kampala, where we met our four team colleagues from Makerere University. Together we traveled to Kyampisi in the central region of Uganda.
That is where we started the fieldwork: we surveyed households to capture the current state of electrification and entrepreneurial activity but also dreams about future businesses in the village. Kyampisi is not connected to the national grid. Some households have very limited access to electricity through solar panels while others have no possibility of using electricity at all. During our interviews, we met motivated people who are currently unable to realize their entrepreneurial ideas and goals due to the very restricted access to power.
Still, the work was very enlightening because we got to talk to different people every day and got insights into their lives. It was interesting to learn how creative some people are and what businesses they have already started: For example, we met somebody who operates a cinema in the village. Especially people who have no power at home can come here to watch movies or even soccer (in particular the Champions League games are very popular).
We also talked to a man who is the only one in the village who has a computer and speakers. During the wedding season, he is often booked as a DJ. If he had more access to electricity, he would also like to open a nightclub in Kyampisi.
The people in the village are eagerly awaiting more electricity and accordingly have high expectations for the living lab constructed by TUM SEED Center: the sustainable energy and entrepreneurship eco-system initiative focuses on using two renewable energies, solar and biogas as drivers for entrepreneurship activities.
Even though we saw extreme poverty, the time in the village was inspiring and insightful.
The people were very interested in our research project and welcomed us hospitably. Especially the children were excited about our visit and waved all the time when they saw us. We laughed a lot and had a lot of fun, although the hot weather and the language barrier were a challenge.
We also had the opportunity to eat local food. Uganda has a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. In the village most people are farmers. Therefore, we had the opportunity to enjoy fresh fruit like pineapples, passion fruits, and jackfruits directly from the tree. We also had a lot of chapatis (a flatbread that is popular street food in East Africa).
In addition, the place where we worked is very well located. For example, we could visit a Rhino Sanctuary (the only place in the country, where one can observe the endangered Southern White-Rhinos in the wild) and experience more of the country.
The project not only offered us the possibility to go abroad and work with other international students. It was also a great way to get experience in the field and learn how to work as a researcher. You can put into practice everything you have learned theoretically at university."
Ekaterina Braun & Anna-Sophie Kreipp