Mexican startup companies are turning on the lights and treating water in the country’s most impoverished regions
The poverty rate in Mexico just a few years ago came in at 26.2% of the entire population.
Although studies have revealed that extreme poverty has reduced in this time, the country continues to struggle with economic growth and with it, wages similarly fail to increase.
Although populated areas such as the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City are not unfamiliar with poverty, it is the rural areas of the country that are hardest hit by the ripples of economic stagnation. In the southern state of Chiapas, up to 76% of the population are considered to be living in poverty, making it the poorest state in the country.
Worst hit tends to be rural communities who, away from urban life are largely left to their own devices when it comes to sourcing water, paying for electricity and maintaining a home. One Mexican startup, however, has challenged itself to shed light on rural poverty by working to provide Mexican homes with solar energy.
Iluméxico is a Mexican enterprise that is using forward-thinking technology to promote awareness and also change the lives of countless rural communities that don’t have access to electricity. With a considerable lack of connections to the electricity grid across rural Mexico, the group is tasked with the mission to light up rural homes with solar energy.
The social startup was launched in 2009 by eight young engineers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) of which Manuel Wiechers Banuet is their managing director. Since their launch, the tech specialists have helped rural communities in over 11 Mexican states and continue to work relentlessly to support families who do not have access to electricity. What’s more, their project now spans to also illuminating schools and medical centers and provides a sustainable way to support the ascent from poverty.
Wiechers, their CEO, also continues to be an exciting pioneer in entrepreneurial circles by both inspiring more social development and the use of solar energy. It was at the recent Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs gathering that Wiechers proudly pointed out that they now support up to 13,000 families across Mexico with their technology solution.
The technology that the former UNAM students pioneered and manufactured themselves has been named Prometeo. It’s an autonomous, solar lighting and electrification system which solves the last-mile electricity distribution problems of Mexico’s power company in rural areas. Their focus on solar aims to curb dependence of rural populations on fuel-guzzling generators and at the same time, curb the added costs that come with maintaining the generators.
In addition to technology solutions, Iluméxico also provides micro-loans to help impoverished populations in rural communities finance these energy projects, and the team provides continuing community engagement workshops to help better guarantee the sustainability of the project.
Ilumexico isn’t the only social startups that is working to inspire change in Mexico and combat poverty.
Cantaro Azul Foundation, which focuses on providing clean drinking water for the country’s rural population, is another such social enterprise that is using technology to help communities. The group recently developed an ultraviolet light disinfection system called Mesita Azul, designed for rural communities.
And at a higher level, socially conscious startup accelerator programs help these ideas become companies, making real impacts. MassChallenge Mexico is one such tech accelerator, based in Mexico City, that aims to give social startups the boost they need to make their ideas reality. MassChallenge has accelerated 64 startups that have fundraised more than USD $19.2 million as well as supporting the creation of over 600 jobs in the last two years, according to company figures.
These are just a few of the examples of socially focused startups and accelerators that are tackling some of Mexico’s greatest challenges when it comes to poverty and modernization.
This article was authored by Tamara Davison.