University of Notre Dame: Empowering communities

Economic transformation through the Connectivity, Electricity and Education for Entrepreneurship (CE3) model


The Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) is a program housed within the Keough School for Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, located in the United States. This program addresses the challenges of building just and equitable societies by leveraging the University’s signature strengths to promote development and human dignity worldwide.

Accenture Development Partnerships and the University of Notre Dame co-developed a transformational, self-sustaining energy model—Connectivity, Electricity and Education for Entrepreneurship (CE3)—with three primary objectives:

  1. Provide off-grid communities with access to affordable, reliable, clean electricity.

  2. Support its own operating costs through the electricity generated.

  3. Establish an environment that fosters local entrepreneurship development and economic growth.

Following a successful pilot project implementation in Uganda, Accenture Development Partnerships was engaged by NDIGD to conduct project oversight of a full scale CE3 project in South Africa, including market assessment and business model development.

After only seven-and-a-half months of the two-year project, forecasts and results indicate that the model has been able to achieve operational sustainability from day one, as well as recover some capital expenditure. Not only has it enabled the development of new businesses, but it has also contributed heavily to the growth of existing businesses and resulted in the creation of local jobs.



Reliable access to electricity is a key component of raising the standard of living beyond subsistence. In KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, the rate of non-electrification is as high as 95 percent, and the unemployment rate is not far behind, hitting 85 percent in many municipalities.

By providing electricity, information and communications technologies (ICT) and entrepreneurship skills, an enduring cycle of economic development can be established. The CE3 project was accomplished in three phases:

  1. A renewable energy system is installed at an institution that co-invests in the implementation and provides a secure facility

  2. Once power is available, a lab is set up to provide Internet connectivity, enabling users to participate in web-based training, webinars and online mentoring

  3. Through the ICT lab, the project runs a skills development program focusing on entrepreneurship


With a strong local presence in South Africa, Accenture Development Partnerships was heavily involved in the roll out of the project. It led the sustainability efforts including training local staff, developing local management tools, assessing business models, and providing training materials.

The following results are expected across both the pilot site in Uganda and the South African sites—all of which are currently on target to be realized or exceeded:

  • Installation of three mid-size solar micro grids (two 30 kilowatt and one 50 kilowatt)

  • Training of 3,350 entrepreneurs in ICT and entrepreneurship

  • Creation of 2,475 jobs

  • Offset of 70,000 liters of diesel fuel (which equates to approximate cost savings of US$98,000)

  • Pumping of 100 million liters of clean water using solar systems (not possible otherwise)

  • Reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 700,000 kilograms

CE3’s skilling programs re-engage communities in assisting students, whose educational careers were ended due to civil unrest or poverty, to continue their education and focus on skills that have demonstrated relevance in the local market.

"The broad-spectrum impact of CE3 at the community level is truly inspiring. Providing access to energy and lighting – CE3 creates new job opportunities driven by skills-building and entrepreneurism, reducing the number of people engaged in migratory labor outside of the community."
Managing Director – Accenture Development Partnerships