Linking Appropriate and Affordable Technology to Developing Markets

The development "industry" is waking up to the fact that small local business enterprises are solving many of the problems of the third world.  The Development Industry can plan an important role supporting small businesses and establishing supply chains for appropriate technologies. The big challenge is locating and matching appropriate technologies that are affordable for poor people - and then getting these products to the consumer.  The market for supplying quality products for poor people is huge and currently not a major target of western focused markets which supply products to the worlds wealthiest people (us).  The other 90% of the population have largely been forgotten.  


Over the next decade we are going to see a huge shift in market focus, and many manufacturers (and businesses) will actively target the other 90% - resulting in innovation and a revolution of sorts - which will (I believe) lead to many positive outcomes and improved standards of living for poor people globally!  

As outlined in Paul Polak's blog (http://blog.paulpolak.com), the western world is very good at developing "smart", innovative and appropriate technologies.  However, these technologies are often too expensive for the poor to afford - so the product never reaches scale.  Asian manufacturers, on the other hand, are very good at copying smart designs and making the products at an affordable price.  The growing Chinese domestic market is creating many affordable products for their people - which are also suited to other developing countries.  


At present there are many "arbitrage" business opportunities in simply matching Chinese manufacturers with poor markets.  With wide internet access still not readily available to poor communities throughout Africa, Asia, South America etc, it is difficult for local business entrepreneurs to market match and locate new affordable product lines.  For people with internet access and a credit line it is rather easy.  For example, I have found  the website Alibaba (alibaba.com) a revolution.  This site is aimed at linking manufacturers with distribution chains.  This website has been around for a while, but they have recently updated their format to a very user friendly layout.  By simply searching an item a range of manufactures are listed with their products and pricing information - and a credibility backing from Alibaba.  In the click of a button I am suddenly chatting online with a manufacturer of solar pumps!  Another advantage of Alibaba is it reduces the number of middle men in the supply chain - which should result in a lower end cost for the consumer.  Transactions can be processed online and the manufacturer sends the product directly.


I have recently completed the purchase of a range of solar helical pumps that have potential for agriculture and water supply in East Africa where we work.  The cost of these solar pump systems is almost too good to be true - we are talking $250 for pump package (pump, controller, solar panels) that delivers 150 L/hr.  That is comparable (and cheaper than many) hand pumps.  Of course we need to test the quality of the products - hence we will be undertaking a consumer product research evaluation over the coming year.  We will ultimately set up local distribution chains if the pumps meet expectation and if market testing demonstrates business potential.  This may involve village people sub-leasing an irrigated area - or individual/groups purchasing the pump system outright.


The list of products available is endless.  There are many many products sitting on alibaba right now that will find a strong market in many developing countries of the world.  For example, solar lamps, solar panels, solar home packages, phones, cameras, tablets, computer products etc etc.  It is simply a matter of researching your local market and finding a product to match.  Of course there are issues of scale and credit.  Often manufacturers prefer to deal in container loads - and the cost of heavy individual (small number) items is expensive to ship/post.  However, such networks and connections create new opportunities for the global community.




$250 for a 30 Watt solar screw pump with 20m head and 150/hr capacity and a 3-year warranty! $500-600 will provide a solar pump system capable of delivery 1000-2000 L/hr at 20-40m head.





Solar power is a solution in countries where governments do not have capacity (or it is not economically viable) to roll-out electricity to rural communities (and many urban).  Solar panel prices are becoming affordable to the poor, with suppliers offering panels for <$1/watt.  Solar power will transform the developing world if we can streamline supplier chains and connect low cost manufactures with poor markets.




Solar lanterns for $4-5 each when ordered in bulk.  An end price of <$10 is realistic and at that price there will be strong market demand in rural Africa - and a profitable business supply chain!






A 30 second search on aliexpress.com located a manufacturer of a 2.3ghz 4gb  tablet PC with 7" screen and wifi and camera for $50 including shipping!