UK-Based Utility Firm Crowdfunds $6.8M For African Solar Projects

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

U.K.-based utility company Bboxx has raised $6.8 million in the largest-ever
solar energy crowdfund for Africa, aimed at improving electricity access for underserved communities. Just 42.8 percent of Africans have electricity.

The funding was raised through off-grid solar energy crowdfunding platform Trine, with the investment scheduled to fund African solar projects, according to Weetracker.

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The fundraising represents the largest crowdfunding operation in the history of solar energy in Africa, according to Afrik21.

Access to electricity remains a serious issue in Africa, with 57.2 percent of people on the continent still without access, the World Bank reports.

Bboxx, which operates in 12 African countries, is backed by U.S. venture capital firm SIMA and Bamboo Capital Partners.

The U.K.-based firm raises funding and provides solar-powered energy on a pay-as-you-go basis to thousands of households across the continent.

This particular crowdfunded investment is planned to empower over 200,000 people in Kenya, Rwanda, Togo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Senegal and Guinea with pay-as-you-go solar home systems, according to AfricanReview.

The systems will not only provide electricity, as elements such as internet access may also be included in certain systems as a value-added service. Many households, especially in rural areas, do not currently have access to the internet.

African solar projects
African children watching a solar powered television. Photo – AP – Shepherd Tozvireva

Swedish crowdfunding platform Trine played an important part in the fundraising, attracting 4,400 unique investors to take part in the crowdfunded scheme which allowed retail investors to participate from as little as $25, according to Businessinsider.

Average funding per investor via the crowdfunding platform amounted to between $500 and $600.

African solar projects since 2017

Trine and Bboxx began working together on this project in early 2018, launching the first of six funding rounds in February, reaching their first $1.13 million target in a single month, according to ITWebAfrica.

Global revenues from the pay-as-you-go solar systems are expected to reach between $6 billion and $7 billion by 2022, according to the latest data from independent off-grid industry association Gogla.

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Bboxx gained a foothold in Africa in December 2017 when it won a tender to install 300,000 solar home systems by 2022, AfricanReview reports.

In 2018, Bboxx and French company EDF entered into a partnership, with EDF holding a 50 percent stake in Bboxx’s Togo operations. A company called Soleva Energy signed a similar deal with the Togo government in 2018.

As part of a Togolese government initiative to electrify 100 percent of households by 2030, the state will issue monthly subsidy vouchers to households operating a Bboxx or Soleva solar system, according to Agridigitale.

Between debt financing, equity crowdfunding and venture capital funding, Bboxx has raised $107 million since 2015, according to Crunchbase.