Local and multinational companies continue to join forces to bring emissions-free, environmentally friendly electricity to rural communities in Africa that have never had reliable access to affordable grid power. Several joint venture project partnerships were announced this past week or so.
Telecoms multinational MTN, along with other industry peers, has been a prime mover. The largest telecoms provider on the continent, MTN on Aug. 2 announced it was extending its partnership with Fenix International, which has emerged as a leading player in Africa’s fledgling, fast growing market for off-grid mobile pay-go (PAYG) solar home systems.
Fenix also announced it was expanding into Zambia, announcing that the Swedish Embassy is committing nearly USD 3 million from this year to 2020 to support the geographic expansion. USAID is pitching in another USD 750,000.
Mobile Pay-Go Solar Moves into Zambia
The capital is earmarked to promote Fenix’s ReadyPay Power product line in Zambia. ReadyPay Power is a modular, scalable off-grid home solar energy system that customers pay for in small, affordable increments – as small as the equivalent of 20 US cents – over time via MTN’s Mobile Money e-payments service, the use of which is widespread across its service territories.
Fenix is aiming to reach 850,000 Zambians living in rural areas as it establishes and expands its presence in the country. “Over 90% of rural Zambians lack access to electricity and have no options other than dangerous candles and kerosene lanterns to light their homes,” Fenix International CEO Lyndsay Handler was quoted in a news report.
“This is the harsh reality of the situation which we are working to change. Our solar home systems not only provide light and energy, but our unique Fenix credit score makes upgrades and additional life-changing products accessible to committed customers as their needs and incomes grow.
“Ten years from now, we hope to eliminate the use of candles and be an important part of our customers’ lives across Zambia.”
Wane Ngambi, who leads MTN’s Mobile Financial Services business highlighted the unexpectedly positive response Fenix solar PAYG has been enjoying in neighborhing Uganda. “My colleagues in Uganda have been blown away by the growth they’ve witnessed with the ReadyPay system.
“In the past, MTN was focused on voice, and then data. We’ve been working on unlocking the potential of MTN Mobile Money for many rural consumers who have gone without access to basic financial services for far too long.”
Elaborating on this, Handler highlighted the central, pivotal role mobile payment capabilities has and is expected will continue to have in terms of its business and expanding access to modern banking, as well as sustainable, local solar energy to rural communities that have never had access to either.
“With MTN’s distribution networks, we’ll be able to reach unbanked and off-grid customers. Once power and credit are established, the possibilities to bring other life-changing products – from smart phones to financial services – are endless,” Handler was quoted.
Andrew is a well seasoned and traveled freelance reporter and editor, covering the the nexus where new energy technology, markets, ecosystems and political economy intersect and overlap.