Made In Africa: Cheap M-Kopa Solar Kits A Big Hit In Rural Kenya

Written by Kevin Mwanza

M-Kopa Solar, a social-enterprise startup that uses solar to reach remote off-grid consumers in East Africa with cheap electricity, has become a hit among rural dweller in Kenya with its pay-as-you-go add-on electronic products.

The startup’s home solar system feature a battery, light bulb, phone-charging facility and a chargeable radio only cost an initial down payment of $34 followed by a $0.50 daily usage payment over 12 months.

The company leverages in Kenya revolutionary mobile payment ecosystem, particularly Safaricom’s M-Pesa, to enable users make daily payments at no rxtra charges.

“M-pesa makes this to work on one end by giving us a chance to collect over a mobile money network,” M-KOPA managing director, Jesse Moore, told CCTV Africa.

In its first three years M-Kopa reached more than 20,000 homes. The firms said the latest financing round will help it reach up to one million homes in East Africa by 2017.

It has over 2,000 full-time staff and sales agents in the region.

Last year, the company started selling add-on products to its existing customers. It has sold over 40,000 of these add-on products over the last six month, including energy-saving cooking stove, Huawei and Samsung smartphones.

M-Kopa say it is now shifting over 1,000 smartphones per month.

Over 80 percent of households in sub-Saharan Africa are not connected to the national electric grid that’s monopolized by inefficient state-run power companies.

Africa’s off-grid revolution has attracted companies, both local and foreign, with initiatives such as ‘Power Africa’ by President Obama and ‘Lighting Africa’ by Senegalese-American R&B music singer and songwriter Akon, jumping on to the bandwagon.

SkyPower, the world’s largest developer and owner of utility-scale solar projects, plans to donate two million free home solar kits in Kenya.