Mercy Corps and Power Africa Electricity Supply Jobs in Uganda : Energy and Digital Finance Advisor

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Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, Mercy Corps partners to put bold solutions into action—helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within. Now, and for the future. In Uganda since 2006, the Mercy Corps team has differentiated itself as a forward-thinking, market-driven agency, having implemented or currently implementing over 40 programs in country, valued at over 110 million GBP, and changing the lives of 2.5 million Ugandans and South Sudanese refugees. In Uganda’s West Nile region, Mercy Corps has broadened the reach and understanding of market-based solutions in refugee and host community settings. Their programs reach more than 11,000 refugee and host community members through smart subsidies (for agricultural inputs), financial services (Village Savings and Loan Associations), and improving linkages to suppliers.

In February 2018, USAID and Power Africa announced the launch of USAID’s Power Africa Uganda Accelerator with the goal of adding 1,000 MW and one million new connections by 2020. This target is aligned with the Government of Uganda (GOU)’s target of increasing electricity generation capacity to 2,500 MW by 2020 and Power Africa’s overall target of adding 30,000 MW and 60 million new connections to electricity (on grid and off grid) in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. The Power Africa Uganda Accelerator’s objective is to facilitate the increase of clean energy electricity generation and electricity access among rural and urban communities in Uganda by working with clean energy generation and access project developers to reach financial close and/or commissioning and to enhance the enabling environment for clean energy investment. The Power Africa Uganda Accelerator works through its networks including the Uganda Solar Energy Association (USEA), an association of over 100 solar product and service providers that guarantees much needed quality in the clean energy space and the Alur Highland Coffee Alliance, a network of 16,000 farmers in the West Nile region.

Context and Opportunity Summary

Uganda hosts one of the world’s largest refugee populations, including a substantial number of South Sudanese refugees, who have primarily settled in the West Nile region. One of the greatest challenges facing both refugees and low-income Ugandans in the West Nile is the lack of reliable, affordable, and clean energy sources—for both electricity and cooking. Alternative energy sources, such as improved cook stoves and solar panels exist, but their high upfront costs are a barrier.

The expansion of mobile money in East Africa (including Uganda) has altered this financial context (including in the Bidibidi refugee settlement, where up to 25% of refugees use mobile phones for financial transactions). The percentage is even higher for low income Ugandans in the West Nile region. Solar panels and improved cook stove providers are integrating mobile money in new business models that capitalize on customers’ ability to make small, mobile-based payments (vs. expensive in-person transactions). These “pay-as you-go” (PAYG) energy services offer a compelling solution to energy poverty for refugees and low-income Ugandans. At the same time, PAYG services offer the opportunity for customers to build credit histories and access additional financial and energy services.

Mercy Corps and Power Africa Uganda Accelerator believe that expanding availability and use of PAYG energy services in the West Nile will substantially improve quality of life for refugees and host communities, while also reducing pressure on the environment. At the same time, a coalition led by Power Africa, called the Smart Communities Coalition (SCC) has convened to improve the delivery of essential services to refugees and host community members through enhanced coordination between public and private entities and strategic implementation of technology. Efforts focus on three foundational pillars—connectivity, digital tools, and energy access.

This position will play a leadership role in coordinating SCC activities in Yumbe settlement and developing and implementing a broader strategy to expand availability of PAYG energy services in the West Nile with the ultimate vision of powered, connected, and productive communities and refugee settlements.

Job Summary: The Energy and Digital Finance Advisor is a new position and the position holder will sit within Mercy Corps Uganda’s team and coordinate closely with Mercy Corps’ global technical teams and Power Africa Uganda Accelerator’s Off-Grid Energy Advisor. The purpose of this role is to facilitate the expansion and growth of demand-driven PAYG energy services including, most importantly, access to electricity to refugee and host communities in the West Nile. The advisor will manage feasibility studies, market research, and pilot activities using existing funding, while supporting new fundraising opportunities that can support subsequent phases of this work. This position will demand effective engagement of the private sector, balanced with deep understanding of end user needs and preferences.

Key Duties and Responsibilities:

SCC Coordination at Innovation Centers

  • Act as focal point for SCC engagement in Bidi Bidi Innovation centers.
  • Network and facilitate information exchange with SCC partners and private sector.
  • Provide representation and report outs on SCC coordination calls.
  • Site identification and assessment for 25 kW solar + battery storage infrastructure.
  • Business modeling for innovation centers.

Market Assessments and Private Sector Engagement

  • Conduct PAYG market mapping and a feasibility study in the West Nile, including identification of minimum required infrastructure and current availability of PAYG products.
  • Manage assessment of the PAYG delivery channel, including the presence and capacity of mobile money merchants and their attitudes towards PAYG products and services.
  • Develop deep partnerships and build relationships with PAYG providers and selected solar product suppliers, gaining understanding of private sector drivers, expansion strategies and limitations, and documenting findings in a PAYG partner scoping report.
  • Manage a demand study on West Nile host community and refugee consumer segments, through demand analysis (examining energy product preferences and potential solar product suppliers) and ability/willingness to pay for energy services.
  • Develop partnership agreements with PAYG providers to conduct pilot deployments and market tests of PAYG solutions in cooperation with willing solar product suppliers.

Manage Pilot Activities

  • Conduct frequent field visits to host communities and refugee settlements in West Nile, including a consistent presence during pilot activities.
  • With support from both Mercy Corps West Nile team members and Power Africa Uganda Accelerator’s field office personnel, and in close coordination with PAYG partners, identify refugee and host community members to participate in PAYG product trials.
  • Prepare and support PAYG suppliers in all aspects of product trials and tests, and ensure that the activities are carried out in line with humanitarian principles.
  • Manage consultants to carry out financial and energy diaries with selected pilot participants, to gain understanding of household budgeting around energy and willingness/ability to pay for energy and financial services.
  • Manage consultants to carry out user experience research, yielding insights about refugee and host community reactions and response to PAYG energy products and solar power solutions.
  • Conduct digital literacy pilots with PAYG users, evaluating approaches to increase digital literacy.

Learning, Knowledge Management and Strategy

  • Proactively share learning and progress with regional and Technical Support Unit (TSU) leadership through bi-monthly email updates and other mechanisms identified by TSU and regional leadership.
  • Develop a clear vision and strategy for subsequent expansion of Mercy Corps’ market-based programming, including identification of other sectors and products that could benefit West Nile host and refugee communities.
  • Liaise with relevant stakeholders including the SCC, government ministries, donor organizations, humanitarian clusters, local NGOs, project partners, and community members to ensure support for and acceptance of Mercy Corps’ activities.
  • Facilitate the compilation of lessons learned following the first round of pilots and market testing, to share with global Mercy Corps and Power Africa Uganda Accelerator, to improve future programming around PAYG energy and frontier finance work.

Resource Development: Lead and/or support proposal development and other fundraising activities that can expand PAYG and other market-based programming in the West Nile.

Team Management

  • Create a work atmosphere that promotes professional development of people at all levels.
  • Contribute to team-building efforts across the Mercy Corps’ cash and market programs and encourage the integration of all team members into relevant decision-making processes.
  • Facilitate training and management of staff, particularly national team members.

Organizational Learning: As part of the commitment to organizational learning and in support of the understanding that learning organizations are more effective, efficient, and relevant to the communities they serve, Mercy Corps expects all team members to commit 5% of their time to learning activities that benefit Mercy Corps as well as themselves.

Accountability to Beneficiaries: Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to beneficiaries and to international standards guiding international relief and development work, while actively engaging beneficiary communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of field projects.

Qualifications, Skills and Experience: 

  • The ideal candidate will possess the following:
  • Master’s degree in economics, business, international development, social sciences, international relations, or another relevant field preferred.
  • At least 5+ years’ experience supporting or leading expansion of products and services in an emerging/frontier market or challenging contexts.
  • Experience managing digital financial services, PAYG energy or similarly complex products that target low income consumers, OR experience supporting private sector partners with product development and expansion.
  • Proven experience working with individuals and teams to quickly build, test, and scale business models, and jointly identify and prioritize key challenges.
  • Strong organizational skills and a demonstrable track record of results and securing funding and building partnerships.
  • A deep understanding of the complexities of the challenges low-income communities face, and the current efforts to solve them.
  • Knowledge of market facilitation principles and techniques as well as human centered design principles.
  • Experience with large international NGOs preferred.
  • Fluent in written and spoken English. Conversant in Alur preferred.
  • Experience working with the private sector and building shared value partnerships.

Success Factors

  • The successful Energy and Digital Finance Advisor will have the ability to multi-task, set priorities, and work under tight deadlines within a complex team. S/he will demonstrate strong interpersonal and cross-cultural communication skills and be committed to the values and mission of both Mercy Corps and Power Africa Uganda Africa. S/he will take initiative and contribute to team efforts, as well as demonstrate an ability to communicate, assume leadership, and make solid decisions while working remotely from country leadership.
  • The most successful Mercy Corps and Power Africa Uganda Africa staff members have a strong commitment to teamwork and accountability, thrive in evolving and changing environments, and make effective written and verbal communication a priority in all situations. Other success criteria include:
  • Entrepreneurial mindset and ability to build influential partnerships quickly, self-motivate.
  • Experience with blended finance or and innovative financing models, especially in fragile or nascent markets.
  • Exceptional project management skills.
  • Customer centric outlook, proven experience with human-centered design thinking and approaches.
  • Highly-developed interpersonal and communication skills including influencing, negotiation, and coaching, especially with a market systems mindset.
  • Outstanding relationship cultivation and management.
  • Cultural knowledge, sensitivity, respect, and a ‘Do no Harm’ mindset.
  • A keen focus on assisting in meeting primarily, Mercy Corps’ and secondarily, the Power Africa Uganda Accelerator’s objectives.
  • A strong empathy with the mission of Mercy Corps.

Living Conditions/Environmental Conditions

The position is based in Kampala and requires up to 50% travel to field locations. Security in Kampala is generally good. Housing, health care, water, electricity, and consumer goods are all reasonably accessible and there are good international and domestic travel options from the Kampala Airport. Air and road travel is necessary to get to some field locations. Mobile phone services are widely available. Internet is available in all Mercy Corps offices, although might be inconsistent. Travel to field sites will be required where living conditions are clean and secure, but basic.

Applicants should send a resume and cover letter by email to with “Energy and Digital Finance Advisor” in the subject line. The application deadline is December 31, 2018, but the employer reserves the right to fill the position earlier if a suitable candidate is found.

Deadline: 31st December 2018

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