WeLight has become the first B Corp certified company in Madagascar. The company joined 50 other B Corp companies in Africa. This prestigious recognition highlights WeLight’s commitment “to creating a positive and meaningful impact on its entire ecosystem, while contributing to a more inclusive and regenerative economy. It also paves the way for other companies in the region.
But what does B Corp really mean? To find out, we discussed with the CEO of WeLight, based in Tananarive, Madagascar.
- What does being B Corp certified mean for a company like WeLight?
The B Corp certification demonstrates that the core value of our model is focused on sharing value among all stakeholders: customers, governments, municipalities, our employees and shareholders, all in strict compliance with social, environmental and governance standards.
The score we obtained shows that we already have one of the best scores of B Corp companies in Africa. This shows that our processes were already virtuous in terms of B Corp values. It is therefore a recognition of what we have been advocating since the creation of WeLight.
Today there’s no need to say it, B Corp validates our social and environmental approach.
- Has “making an impact” become more important than profit?
The spirit of B Corp is precisely to make impact a sustainable value, in every sense of the word. Because only that which is profitable, which makes economic sense, is truly sustainable. Profit is an indicator of this. We cannot oppose the two, but we must rebalance impact against profit.
- What are some examples of actions you have taken in order to comply with B Corp’s requirements in terms of social and environmental performance?
It doesn’t really work like that. B Corp provides a questionnaire on several fundamental dimensions and assigns a score. Then it’s up to us to improve on a particular point.
Beyond our core business of rural electrification through productive electricity, which has an obvious and fundamental impact, we have cultivated two areas of impact that are particularly significant in two categories:
The first is the outreach to entrepreneurs that we bring beyond providing electricity. In partnership with the German cooperation (the GIZ), we support entrepreneurs to formalize business plans as part of the change in operating model. Indeed, with the arrival of productive electricity, they will have to invest in new tools. We help them to formalize their projects and to find the financing to pay for half of the investments they need to equip themselves and change their production model. We started by supporting a hundred entrepreneurs and we are going to increase to 1000 in our new development phase.
In terms of equipment, our priority is to finance freezers for businesses, welding facilities, sawmills, huskers, equipment for hairdressers, etc. In total, we are already supplying 1,500 micro and small businesses and we are targeting 8,000 connected entrepreneurs by the end of 2024…
The second category of impact is that, in all the villages we are developing, we offer free connection of community buildings (town halls, health centers, schools, police stations) and public lighting. We have electrified 130 villages and we are aiming for a total of 800 within two years. As for streetlights, we have a total of 350 today with a target of 1800 by 2024.
- WeLight is a pioneer in Madagascar and in the region. Do you think the announcement of this certification can push other impactful companies in the region to follow in your steps?
There is already a very strong momentum among our partners. In particular, it has motivated the companies of the Axian group, to which we belong. Some of them are already on board and we are sharing our experience with them. In the country as a whole, the news has had a ripple effect, raising a lot of questions and making others want to join in. We know that we are inspiring other Malagasy companies to join the movement to maximize our positive impact.
Only one other company active in the electrification sector in Africa is certified B Corp. We naturally hope that others will follow this example!
- Do you plan on extending your services elsewhere on the continent?
WeLight is already present in Mali with plans to further expand our presence in the country. We are also exploring new countries like Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other destinations. We are ready to offer our solutions wherever they meet the needs and mission of WeLight. Our ambition is to pursue multi-country growth in Africa, wherever our solutions can help solve the energy challenge.
The WeLight impact in figures
By the end of 2022, WeLight was present in 40 villages, with approximately 200,000 people benefiting directly or indirectly from WeLight’s electricity. WeLight just raised about €20M to deploy 175 new villages in Madagascar in the next 18 months.
In addition to the many connected households, about 1,500 businesses and small industries have electrified their production model. WeLight has also supported and trained more than 150 entrepreneurs in new projects, connected 150 public buildings (schools and health centers) and installed 400 street lights.