Innovation Challenge

Global Distributors Collective members are proven innovators. Collectively, we already have the knowledge and ideas to crack last mile distribution challenges and we believe that, by working together, we can unlock mass scale and bring beneficial products to those who need them most. To this end, from 2019 until now, the GDC has supported nine innovation pilots on areas such as how to scale into new geographies, how to digitalise group sales and lending, and how to better assess customers’ credit risk.  

Innovation Challenge winners (2020)

Vitalite Senegal and upOwa : Managing remote sales teams via new software platforms

Pilot 1: Vitalite Senegal (GDC member) and Maad (partner)

Pilot 2: upOwa (GDC member) and Optimetriks (partner)

Managing remote sales teams via new software platforms

These two pilots both developed a digital sales agent management tool to help LMDs manage sales teams remotely. The tools feature agent on-boarding, task management, and route planning; allow sales managers to track agent performance; and include a mobile app for offline use. Both digital services are now available to all GDC members to purchase via Maad and Optimetriks.

Locations: Senegal, Zambia, Malawi and Cameroon | Photo credit: upOwa

Vitalite Zambia: Developing a data-driven underwriting service

Vitalite Zambia (GDC member) and Nithio (partner)

A data-driven underwriting service

This pilot established an under-writing module that analyses customer data and geospatial household characteristics, to predict which customers are ‘slow’, ‘moderate’, and ‘fast’ repayers of products that LMDs sell on credit. The knowledge gained in this project helped Vitalite Zambia to organise their transition towards centralized customer onboarding. Nithio has revisited their value proposition for LMDs and is keen to connect with larger companies to explore similar collaborations.
Location: Malawi | Photo credit: Bopinc

Kambasco: Assessing customer credit worthiness via savings groups

Kambasco (GDC member) and Upya (partner)

Assessing customer credit worthiness via savings groups

This pilot created a credit assessment tool to enable LMDs to predict the creditworthiness of their customers, using datasets from savings groups. This enables customers to access instant loans from a Financial institution, to buy solar products. The tool has been uploaded on the Upya app, which is available for GDC members interested in undertaking in-house credit assessments.

Location: Kenya| Photo credit: Kambasco Technologies

Econome: Embracing digitised group sales lending

Econome (GDC member) and Sevi (partner)

Embracing digitised group sales lending

This pilot developed an app with a product pre-finance feature to digitalise group lending and sales of products through an e-commerce catalogue that is optimised for smartphones. Before a loan is granted, the app’s algorithm assesses group members’ creditworthiness to lower the pre-financing risk. Sevi will help GDC members purchase and customise this service to adopt a digitalised approach to group lending.

Location: Kenya | Photo credit: Econome

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Innovation Challenge winners (2019)

Bidhaa Sasa: An assessment tool to scale distribution models in new regions

Bidhaa Sasa (GDC member)

An assessment tool to scale distribution models in new regions

This pilot produced a free tool to help LMDs assess their readiness to scale and embark on their scaling journey, in a thoughtful and lean way. The tool was used by Bidhaa Sasa to scale their own operations from Kenya into Uganda; their experience is included as a case study for other LMDs to learn from.

Location: Kenya| Photo credit: Bidhaa Sasa

Mwezi: A digital training facility for the sale of solar-powered drip irrigation systems

Mwezi (GDC member)

A digital training facility for the sale of solar-powered drip irrigation systems

This pilot explored how to sell and service appropriate drip irrigation systems to smallholder farmers, including developing marketing and training materials, as well as an accompanying sales tool.

Location: Kenya | Photo credit: David Brazier/ IWMI

SolarAid: Energy microfinance cooperative: for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs

SolarAid (GDC member)

Energy microfinance cooperative: for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs

This pilot established an energy microfinance cooperative that creates a credit facility by pooling the entrepreneurs' funds, which can be used to leverage additional, external funds. This allows entrepreneurs to access working capital at affordable rates and enjoy business support, tools and training.
Location: Malawi | Photo credit: Bopinc

Ecobora: Inexpensive ‘rent-a-shelf’ solar retail kiosks

Ecobora (GDC member)

Inexpensive ‘rent-a-shelf’ solar retail kiosks

This pilot established 10 kiosks for local women entrepreneurs, from which to sell products such as crops from their farms, improved cookstoves and fuels, and solar lanterns from other distributors that rent-a-shelf at the kiosk. Costing just a few hundred dollars, the expectation was that women entrepreneurs could essentially buy-back the kiosk over a period of six months, ending in full local ownership. Due to factors that were complicated by the global pandemic, including working capital constraints to purchase products, Ecobora faced challenges in procuring products for the women entrepreneurs to stock at the kiosks. This led to lower revenues, which, in turn, hampered the women entrepreneurs’ ability to repay the kiosks during the period intended; however, they continue to make repayments on an ongoing basis. Ecobora is now searching for product providers that are keen to collaborate with these women entrepreneurs; and is simultaneously designing and testing a ‘one-stop-shop’ marketplace, that it hopes will offer the women entrepreneurs products and access to finance at more convenient terms moving forwards.

Location: Kenya | Photo credit: Ecobora

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Discover the tools and how-to-guides

Tips for writing grant funding proposals

Check out this short and simple summary, which brings together insights and reflections from the GDC’s experience of running Innovation Challenges in 2019 and 2020. Recommendations are intended to help GDC members successfully fundraise from a range of donors, including but not limited to the GDC.

Read our top tips 


This project was funded with UK aid from the UK government, via the Transforming Energy Access programme.