November 22nd, 2016 by Joshua S Hill
At the UN Climate conference held in Marrakech earlier this month, America’s foreign aid agency USAID announced the recipients of $4 million in new funding for African off-grid solar energy startups. The seed funding was provided to eight companies through the Scaling Off-Grid Energy: Grand Challenge for Development competition in a competitive process, and is expected to create up to 120,000 additional connections in off-grid communities. The funding is specifically designed to provide the solar startups with the necessary finances to support geographic expansion throughout Africa, test new business models, and tap into further private and public financing.
“The Grand Challenge for Development is designed to support innovators like these eight companies who are scaling up their inventions,” said Power Africa Coordinator Andrew M. Herscowitz. “The options for powering your home and business are changing, and these types of innovations will create opportunities to transform the power sector in homes across the planet.”
The eight recipients were as follows:
- Greenlight Planet (Nigeria, Uganda) is expanding sales of low-cost solar home solutions through state of the art pay-as-you-go technology and deep distribution networks.
- d.light (Kenya) is developing and expanding on software, training materials, and a call center to support a direct distribution model.
- Fenix (Zambia) is expanding energy access through its expandable solar solutions kits that include options to power phones, lights, radios, televisions, and other appliances.
- Orb Energy (Kenya) is establishing partnerships with banks and microfinance institutions to finance consumer solar system purchases.
- VITALITE (Zambia) is distributing pay-as-you-go solar home systems, televisions, solar lamps, and appliances for rural, off-grid communities.
- PEG Africa (Ghana) is testing new digital payment tools that will help rural customers more easily pay for their solar home systems using mobile money.
- Shinbone Labs (Benin, Ghana) is directly selling pre-packaged, expandable, low-cost solar kits that can be remotely activated, monitored and, in the future, paid by mobile phones.
- Village Energy (Uganda) is building a last-mile solar distribution and servicing network in rural Uganda by training young men and women to become technicians and retail shop managers in their communities.