MFP_pic1.jpgThe Multi-functional Platform is a source of mechanical and electrical energy meant to replace significant quantities of human labor, especially that of women in rural areas. Essentially, it consists of a diesel engine (8 or 12 hp) mounted on a steel chassis that can be used with any number of variable attachments, the most common of which are generally used for milling and grinding. In this way, it can form the base of decentralized and flexible energy service provision to isolated rural areas.

The first MFP project was undertaken from 1993-95 in Mali and Burkina Faso at the behest of UNIDO and IFAD. In 1996, the same technology was deployed by the UNDP and the government of Mali. The project is still ongoing and has expanded to include other West African Countries (Senegal, Ghana, Guinea). As of 2008, a total of 800 MFPs have been installed which benefit more than one million individuals. Throughout the life of all programs, there has been a strong focus placed on gender issues and community capacity building.

Lessons learned
  1. A technology push can work, but you have to push that much harder
Thumbnail Analysis
  1. The Policy-Enterprise-Technology Balanced Approach
  2. The Enterprise-Customer Connection


Began: The MFP program began in 1996 as the result of a collaboration between the Government of Mali and the UNDP. Highly successful, the program then expanded to Senegal (2001), Burkina (2004), Ghana (2005), and Guinea (2007).

What: The Multi-functional Platform is composed of a diesel engine mounted on a steel chassis with interchangeable attachments that can be used for a variety of tasks: milling, grinding, water pumping, electricity generation and battery charging, etc.

The Energy Need: Each is located in a rural, marginalized community where the MFP is capable of replacing large amounts of human labor (particularly women's in the area of agro-processing) and spurring economic and social development.

Investment: Close to 90% of the total costs of the MFP (most of the capital and all of the programmatic costs) have mostly been subsidized by the UNDP, host country governments and donor organizations. The communities must provide the shed to house the MFP as well as pay for all the operating costs.

Capacity building: The UNDP and its partners provide capacity building by training artisans who can install and maintain the machines, as well as the group members who are responsible for operating the MFP and keeping track of the accounting.

Now (2008): The MFP program is enormously popular, currently in five African countries and poised to expand with more US $10 M pledged by national governments. Research is underway to evaluate the potential of biofuels and test whether MFPs can be commercially viable.

Outcomes/Impacts: 800 MFPs are operational; over 1 M people currently benefit from the program; 4,000 people are directly employed; 1,500 women participate in the managing committees.

Back to top


1) A technology push can work, but you must push that much harder.

The MFP program is a clear example of taking one very specific technology, developing it, and then disseminating it on a programmatic (rather than a market) basis. Arguably, the MFP program has thus far been limited not by technology (the technology works, and well), not by the ability to identify suitable communities (there is a long waiting list), but by the availability of funds to pay for the machines as well as the community capacity building services.

Gradually, this technology push has developed a policy aspect as host country governments signed on to the initiative and began to make it part of their national energy and development strategies. This will no doubt help the program to scale as more funding and support is made available.
It has yet to be seen, however, whether the MFP can also develop into an enterprise push that may make the program more financially sustainable as it leverages more of the resources already present in communities on the ground rather than relying so heavily on donor dollars. Of course, communities vary according to their ability to support the capital, and sometimes even operating costs, of the systems, but this is no reason to extend the same level of pure subsidy in all cases.

Potential pitfalls of trying to include the enterprise side of the triangle are the following: First, in some areas where there exists a relatively high concentration of MFPs and a general awareness of the program, there is little hope of including more enterprise-like aspects because expectations are that services will be delivered according to the prevailing donor-driven model. Second, many attributes, both of the physical design of the MFP as well as its social design, were conceived in the context of the current programmatic approach and may not be totally appropriate/sustainable for an enterprise-based endeavor without slight modification. Thus, there is some danger to transplanting 100% of the MFP, its physical assets and operating instructions, and trying to turn it into a business.
Back to top


The Policy-Enterprise-Technology Balanced Approach


Back to top
The Enterprise-Customer Connection


Back to top

Summary Profile, Lessons Learned and Thumbnail Analysis:

Supporting Documents: