Research and insights

The Global Distributors Collective works to provide a collective voice for the last mile distribution sector, and to increase stakeholders’ understanding of the vital role that last mile distributors play in alleviating global poverty and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Key to this is generating evidence and insights to offer a unique window into the challenges, priorities and opportunities faced by distributors and the support they need to thrive. You may also be interested in our series of blogs on themes such as gender, product trends and future-gazing.

Selling productive use of energy products to last mile consumers: Lessons learned

Productive use of energy (PUE) products have the potential to be transformational for last mile customers, helping them to access new opportunities and generate additional income. But selling these products can be complex and tricky to navigate. This report draws on interviews with 13 last mile distributors in 13 countries, to explore insights and lessons learned from selling various PUE technologies – including solar mills, refrigerators and water pumps – to help other distributors on their PUE journeys.

Last mile distribution capital continuum: Trends, gaps and opportunities

This research maps 50 funders actively investing in last mile distributors (LMDs) across different stages of company growth (pre-seed, seed, early growth and accelerated growth). It will enable LMDs to navigate the funder landscape; encourage collaboration among funders; and help us to identify gaps in funding. This research was first presented in June 2022 at the LMD Investor Forum 2022.

Last Mile Distribution: State of the sector update 2022

Based on data from 132 GDC members, as well as evidence and insights gathered by the GDC over the last three years, this report it offers a comprehensive overview of the GDC membership profile and the progress and impact of GDC members; and explores four major trends in the LMD sector, in the areas of digitalisation, access to finance, product diversification and consumer financing. Overall, the report finds that, despite significant challenges – not least Covid-19 – the LMD sector is impactful, resilient and increasingly professional. External support, including access to finance, is key to unlocking LMDs’ full potential for impact at the last mile as is the capacity of the sector as a whole to leverage LMDs’ learnings to accelerate growth and impact.

Wholesalers for beneficial products: The missing link for impact at the last mile

Last mile distributors of off-grid solar (OGS) standalone products report finding it increasingly difficult to identify and procure quality, price-competitive products, due to challenges throughout the value chain. There is an opportunity for a wholesale model to tackle these challenges by centralising demand and importing a portfolio of quality products in bulk. The Global Distributors Collective (GDC), in partnership with established wholesaler Sollatek Kenya, launched a pilot to explore what it would take to set up such a model. This report summarises the key insights and learnings drawn from the pilot, with the objective to inform the sector on the key success criteria and support needed to launch a wholesale model for quality-assured beneficial products, in the OGS sector and potentially beyond.

Gender in Business: Lessons Learned for Last Mile Distributors

Drawing on GDC members’ experiences, as well as Value for Women‘s (VfW) work supporting SMEs around the world, this guide enables last mile distributors (LMDs) to apply a gender lens to their organisation and test gender-inclusive strategies – from increasing the recruitment of women sales agents and improving their access to assets that help ramp-up sales, to tailoring digital marketing strategies for women customers. It includes five specific strategies, each with a case study example from a GDC member, and features lessons learned, first-hand insights and practical tips; as well as template documents to help LMDs who are looking to proactively enhance their gender inclusivity.

Digital transformation to support last mile distribution: overcoming barriers together

Last mile distributors play a crucial role in providing access to energy and other life-changing services to unserved customers. Digitalisation is key to enabling these companies to operate efficiently on a larger scale. Energy Catalyst and the Global Distributors Collective have joined forces to explore how digital solution providers (DSPs) and last mile distributors (LMDs) can better understand and respond to each other’s requirements.

‘Digital transformation to support last mile distribution: overcoming barriers together’ connects the two worlds of DSPs and LMDs to accelerate the digitalisation of the sector. The report, which has been funded by UKRI, focuses on building bridges in five particular areas: industry visibility, digital readiness, financing IT, software interoperability, and replicability across countries.

The growth and fundraising journeys of last mile distributors (LMDs)

Based on interviews with a set of high performing LMDs from the GDC membership, this research considers what growth and impact look like in the LMD sector; what kind of capital is needed to support LMDs; and what the barriers are for LMDs to accessing that capital. The research was first presented in April 2021 at the Last Mile Distribution Investor Forum.

How is the last mile distribution sector adapting and innovating following COVID-19?

This report brings together insights from interviews and peer learning workshops with 23 CDC investees and GDC members operating in the energy, agriculture, health, water, e-commerce and fastmoving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors, along with sector-wide research. Aiming to help businesses in the LMD sector to adapt, improve their resilience and accelerate their recovery, this report explores the challenges, innovations and suggested solutions in four areas identified by participating companies as priorities for post-Covid 19 business activities. These are: smart use of working capital, MNC and e-commerce partnerships, digitising customer relations and remote field team management.

Finding the sweet spot: identifying affordable quality solar products for the last mile

This report brings together the Global Distributors Collective’s key findings from six months of research on the quality of best-selling non-quality-verified (non-QV) off-grid solar products in Kenya. It identifies non-QV products that are close to meeting the Lighting Global Quality Standards, while remaining highly price-competitive with leading products in the market today. The report’s findings will help distributors, and the off-grid sector as a whole, to identify products in a ‘price-quality sweet spot’ to better serve customers at the last mile.

Last Mile Distribution: State of the sector report

Based on a survey of 72 GDC members from 30+ countries, as well as a series of expert interviews, this first-of-its-kind report highlights the vital role of last mile distributors (LMDs) in creating markets for beneficial products and effectively reaching last mile customers. It contains a wealth of new data and insights and provides tangible recommendations for stakeholders on how to engage with and support the sector.

GET.invest EU Logo

The growth and fundraising journeys of last mile distributors (2021) was supported by GET.invest, a European programme which aims to mobilise investment in decentralised renewable energy, supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria.

CDC logo

How is the last mile distribution sector adapting and innovating following COVID-19? (2021) was funded by CDC Group, the UK’s impact investor.

State of the Sector (2019), Finding the Sweet Spot: identifying affordable quality solar products for the last mile (2020), Digital transformation to support last mile distribution: overcoming barriers together (2021), and Gender in Business: Lessons Learned for Last Mile Distributors (2022) were funded by UK aid from the British government via the Transforming Energy Access programme; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official policies.