Nigerian lender, First Bank and Azuri Technologies, a distributed renewable energy firm have signed a partnership agreement in Lagos on Thursday, February 7, that will see the solar company sell its products using the bank’s 16,000 First monie agent network across 750 locations in Nigeria.
Solar energy firms often offer a solar panel, phone charging station and perhaps a radio outlet but Azuri is introducing solar home television as part of a product offering targeted at small businesses in both rural and semi urban locations in Nigeria.
The partnership agreement took almost a year for negotiations to close highlighting the uphill task facing renewable energy firms in accessing finance to deploy solar solutions. This agreement with Azuri is the boldest move yet by any Nigerian lender to join the current trend of deepening energy access to Nigeria’s underserved communities.
Azuri’s solar home TV product will be co-branded and co-marketed by FirstBank and Azuri. Pay-as-you-go customers will be able to pay for their solar via FirstBank’s Firstmonie agent network and mobile payment solution. Firstmonie agents are positioned within rural and semi-urban locations across the country and provide basic financial services such as account opening, cash deposit, cash withdrawals and bill payments.
Simon Bransfield-Garth, CEO of Azuri Technologies said, “This partnership combines the reach of FirstBank with Azuri’s technology and pay-as-you-go solar expertise to bring next generation power to off-grid consumers in Nigeria.”
“Azuri and FirstBank share the vision of a level playing field where all consumers have the ability to benefit from modern financial and digital services, regardless of where they live and this agreement is another step in making that vision a reality,” Bransfield-Garth said.
According to Adesola Adeduntan, FirstBank CEO, “Financial inclusion is a priority with FirstBank and we are excited that with this partnership, our customers are able to access a wide range of services that address real problems such as access to power. With our over 16,000 Firstmonie Agents spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria, our customers are at an advantage in enjoying seamless financial services from the Bank that puts them first.”
From solar home lighting to solar satellite TV, Azuri systems are designed to deliver world class performance at an affordable price for all customers that experience irregular power supply, the company said.
Customers make small weekly or monthly payments to gain access to the power and have the support of the company’s technical staff stationed in the communities. Locals are often hired and trained by the company which it sees as another way to create jobs for the unemployed.
Bransfield-Garth in response to a question on why it is not manufacturing locally, said infrastructural, energy and fiscal challenges in Nigeria makes it difficult it at the moment. He added that while the company had a small team of about 20 engaged in manufacturing, hundreds of jobs have been created in distribution which they see as a better way to add value.
Azuri said its experience shows that pay-as-you-go solar is transforming lives by providing energy for lighting, phones and TVs while helping boost local economies with new employment opportunities and connecting off-grid households to financial and digital services that are helping improve productivity and increase income.
More than 60 million of Nigeria’s roughly 200 million people do not have bank accounts and as little as 6% of people have a mobile money account, hence both parties believe that the partnership will help deepen digital and financial inclusion in the country.