How smart investors are closing in on $25bn Sub-Saharan Africa offgrid market

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Perennially poor power supply in Sub-Saharan has seen over 800 million people without enough electricity to light their homes and improve the quality of their lives. However, some smart companies are seeing opportunity in offgrid business.

According to Azuri Technologies, there is a $25billion off-grid market in Sub-Saharan Africa waiting to be tapped by companies who provide solutions in superior Paygo solar system that offer convenient payment system, top notch customer service and superior product.

Simon Bransfield-Garth, chairman of Azuri Technologies, paid a courtesy visit to BusinessDay on Tuesday, as part of efforts to deepen their Nigerian market. The Cambridge-based company has partnered with the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) to launch pay-as-you-go solar systems in Nigeria. It plans to deliver affordable, clean energy to 20,000 rural households living without electricity across the country.

‚ÄúOur objective is to provide commercial PayGo solar systems to rural off-grid communities. We have the widest reach of any provider in sub Saharan Africa to people around the world who lack access to the grid,‚ÄĚ said Bransfield-Garth.

He further said, ‚ÄúAzuri has used mobile technology to turn a development challenge into a business opportunity through its Azuri solar home systems, which allow users to pay for solar power on a pay-as-you-go basis, just like they do for their phones and kerosene. This provides clean, safe renewable power to families at about half the cost of the kerosene it replaces, without the need for any government subsidies or tariffs.‚ÄĚ

Located in Cambridge, United Kingdom, and currently present in 12 countries including Kenya, Uganda  Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania, the company’s services reaches over 130,000 subscribers.

Nigeria is developing an ecosystem of PayGo solar operation with companies like Lumos, Arnergy and a few others, blazing the trail to serve about 90 million Nigerians who are poorly served by the national grid.

Some of these PayGo Solar operators rely on financing from international agencies, which is why they are able to offer customers refinancing schemes ranging from 36 months in the case of Azuri and 5 years in the case of Lumos.

Operators are also addressing a major concern about solar application which is availability of power throughout the day. Many of these systems guarantee between 6 and 8 hours of power supply a day.

‚ÄúOur system has artificial intelligence technology embedded which figures out what the climate is doing and regulates the use to ensure you get up 6 hours of power. This is the first time something like this is being done and the innovation started in Africa,‚ÄĚ says Simon Bransfield-Garth.

Azuri’s model is a three-pronged approach that progressively delivers value by first starting out customers on a 10 watts solar panel capacity, then upgrade to 50 watts capacity and finally extend it to power farms and other major needs.

Impacting lives

Does six hours of lightening make any difference in the lives of people? Several schools in East Africa where PayGo solar is widely adopted, reports better academic performance as students who work on farms during the day, now have an opportunity to read in the night using solar lightening for at least two hours.

Also businesses now open for longer hours and this is improving the income of rural dwellers and helping commerce to thrive. More affluent users in the rural areas who have solar systems capable of powering television sets, keep abreast of current happenings.

Government can deepen these gains through well thought out policies like removing duties on solar panels and cutting the current high duty on battery which is at 20% as this will further help to drive down the cost.

 

ISAAC ANYAOGU

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