iShack

The iShack Project is a South African social enterprise that provides off-grid solar electricity to low-income residents of informal settlements who do not have grid-electrification.

This energy service is a spin-out from a much broader programme of applied research at the Sustainability Institute that explored the idea of incremental service-delivery for informal settlement households in South Africa who often wait for many years, if not decades, before receiving conventional basic services. The research question was: “what alternative services could be provided while they wait?”

The clients of the iShack Project join the energy service voluntarily and receive a Solar Home System which generates sufficient electricity to power lights and energy-efficient media appliances such as LED TVs, radios, tablets and smart-phones. All clients make some co-payments towards the service, but the goal is to subsidise their costs in order to make the service as affordable and as universally accessible as possible. First prize is a subsidy from local government (as has been achieved in the flagship utility in Enkanini, in Stellenbosch). However, the project also uses grants and donations to support clients in other sites (in Cape Town) where there is, as yet, no municipal subsidy. 

The iShack operating model is underpinned by a long-term commitment to client-service, rather than a once-off, ‘drop-and-go’ intervention. The operations team includes groups of ‘iShack Agents’ who all live in the communities where they work. Regular training is provided at the Sustainability Institute, during which the Agents are given the skills necessary to deliver a high quality, durable solar energy service.

The primary mission of the project is to demonstrate, at scale, a viable and financially sustainable public-private model for the provision of incremental energy services to under-serviced communities. The iShack model is consistent with numerous existing laws and policies in South Africa that prioritise the delivery of subsidised basic services to the poorest members of society. The South African Constitution envisages ‘progressive realisation’ of services, and the iShack service is a working embodiment of that vision which can be adopted by municipalities throughout the country in order that they deliver on their statutory obligations to ensure universal access to basic energy.

The iShack Project is a project of SIIL: The Sustainability Institute Innovation Lab (Pty) Ltd. SIIL was founded in 2012 as a spin-out of the Sustainability Institute, but is now independent of the Institute.

https://www.ishackproject.co.za/

The Team

INSTALLATION COORDINATOR

Cisomo Banda

DIRECTOR: SILL

Damian Conway

INSTALLER - ISHACK

Mzukisi Malibeni

ADMINISTRATOR

Nathalie Hendricks

MAINTENANCE AGENT - ISHACK

Pamella Kolanisi

MAINTENANCE AGENT - ISHACK

Tuliswa Somta

INSTALLATION COORDINATOR

Cisomo Banda

Cisomo is the Installation Coordinator for the iShack project.

He has extensive experience in social economic development in peri-urban areas, with a strong background in project management contributing to the development of less developed communities in social and economic development. Cisomo holds a masters degree in development studies. As installation coordinator for the iShack project, he enjoys using his skills to contribute to the development of a vulnerable community such as Enkanini. Cisomo is passionate to help bring about positive and sustainable change in the less developed communities.

DIRECTOR: SILL

Damian Conway

In 2012 Damian joined the iShack Project which has now matured into a state-subsidised solar electricity utility for off-grid informal settlements. He is the Director of SIIL (Pty) Ltd which is the social enterprise that runs the iShack Project.

Damian works in the areas of small enterprise development and social enterprise with a focus on energy poverty. After obtaining a Bachelors and then a Masters in Engineering (computational mechanics) at the University of Cape Town, Damian co-founded a medical device consultancy which later evolved into a medical R&D and manufacturing business. After 11 years he embarked on a new chapter to pursue a growing interest in Sustainable Development. He obtained a Bachelor of Philosophy in Sustainable Development at Stellenbosch University.

INSTALLER - ISHACK

Mzukisi Malibeni

Mzukisi is originally from Umtata and came to the Western Cape in 2006 at the age of 16. He was a Class Leader at Kayamandi High where he matriculated. After working as an iShack Installer since March 2015 he has already gained interest in becoming a qualified electrician.

Mzukisi is originally from Umtata and came to the Western Cape in 2006 at the age of 16. He was a Class Leader at Kayamandi High where he matriculated. After working as an iShack Installer since March 2015 he has already gained interest in becoming a qualified electrician. He sings in the tenor section of St. Johns Apostolic Church in Kayamandi, and plays right wing for Jomo Boys F.C. in the Kayamandi social league. He has one daughter. He has previously worked for Parmalat foods.

ADMINISTRATOR

Nathalie Hendricks

Nathalie is the Administrator for The SI Innovations laboratory (SILL), primarily the iShack programme.

She obtained her bookkeeping qualification in 2004 from Varsity College, and has since gained valuable experience working her way through the finance department of Thorburn Holdings (Pty) Ltd Stellenbosch. Nathalie has a positive can do attitude, and strives to deliver excellent results by staying motivated and passionate about the work she does. In future her goal is to become a qualified accountant.

MAINTENANCE AGENT - ISHACK

Pamella Kolanisi

Pamella joined the iShack Project in 2015 as a trainee maintenance agent and now fulfils various responsibilities within the project, including Client Services, Technical Services and installations.

She is originally from Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape and before joining the project, worked in the services industry. She enjoys spending her spare time with her family and is interested in furthering her studies to enhance her customer service skills.

MAINTENANCE AGENT - ISHACK

Tuliswa Somta

Tuliswa conducts preventative maintenance and responds to maintenance calls – involving anything from replacing a broken fuse to following technical troubleshooting protocols.

Tuliswa studied Electrical Engineering at Walter Sisulu University for 2 years as well as various computer courses. She has also worked in the IT industry in an internet cafe, and has taught basic computer skills to underprivileged children in the Eastern Cape. She likes learning new things every day and making a positive impact in her community. She is inspired by her work on the iShack Project, because it involves continuous problem-solving, which results in making clients happy