10 African Solar Companies Innovating Access To Electricity

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
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Access to electricity remains an issue across Africa, with 57.2 percent of people on the continent still off the grid.

African solar companies are trying to provide innovative solutions to bring power to more people than ever before.

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From Kenyan solar firms raising big bucks to increase their user base, to an Ivorian company that has introduced an innovative solar backpack, businesses are giving Africans access to power.

Here are 10 African solar companies innovating access to electricity.

M-Kopa

Kenyan solar energy company M-Kopa is one of the older companies on this list, having been founded in 2011. It secured a round of funding in March 2018, and while it was undisclosed, it included a first ever $10 million investment from FinDev Canada. A big player in East Africa, M-Kopa has raised $161.8 million over 11 funding rounds, Crunchbase reports.

SolarNow

Ugandan firm SolarNow is a renewable energy provider offering five million households in Uganda that are not connected to an electricity grid an affordable solar energy solution to replace energy sources such as kerosene lights, while powering appliances that can be used to start businesses and create a livelihood. At the beginning of 2019 the company announced a $9 million credit fund led by SunFunder, with participation from responsAbility and Oikocredit, Techpoint reported.

The Sun Exchange

The Sun Exchange is a South African blockchain-based solar micro-leasing marketplace which allows anyone in the world to own or lease solar panels used to power African businesses and communities; earning panel owners an income. The company is in the process of raising a $3 million funding round, having successfully raised $3.1 million from investors to date, according to Ventureburn.

Solarpak

Ivory Coast’s Solarpak pioneered a backpack solar solution that provides users with access to power through solar energy. The bag features a solar panel and battery that recharges throughout the daylight hours. The bag includes a LED lamp which can be powered by the solar energy, allowing students to do their work at night thanks to the light source, according to Weetracker.

Oolu

Senegalese solar startup Oolu provides off-grid households in rural villages with modern energy access through solar solutions, allowing those in remote areas access to power. The graduate of Silicon Valley-based tech incubator Y Combinator is one of the fastest growing solar companies in the region, having become the market-leaders serving 34,000 households in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali, according to ImpactAlpha.

attracted investment African solar companies
Solar startup Oolu is one of the African tech companies backed by Y Combinator. Photo – Oolu

Peg Africa

Recently in the news due to raising a $25 million Series C funding round in March, pay-as-you-go solar company Peg Africa is one of firms fighting for market share in West Africa. That investment brought its total funding to date to $47.5 million, according to a press release. The solar firm serves 60,000-plus households and more than 300,000 users, through 70 service centers, employing 400 full time staff and 550 commission-based sales agents, according to Forbes.

Daystar Power

Mauritius-based solar company Daystar Power builds off-grid solar farms with batteries for energy storage, offering power solutions to commercial and industrial customers in Nigeria. Daystar Power was founded in Lagos in 2017 by Christian Wessels and Jasper Graf von Hardenberg and incubated by African VC fund, Sunray Ventures, according to a press release. The company received a $10 million investment from
New York-based venture capital firm Persistent Energy Capital LLC, and Nigeria’s Verod Capital Management in April, according to CNBCAfrica.

Tizeti

Nigerian solar-powered internet service provider Tizeti aims to become a “Comcast for Africa”, building and operating solar-powered towers in Nigeria, while also providing residences, businesses, events and conferences with unlimited high speed broadband internet access, covering over 70 percent of Lagos. In September 2018 the Y Combinator-backed company raised $3 million in a Series A round of funding that was dedicated to its expansion into Ghana, according to the company.

SolarWorks!

Mozambique is another African country that enjoys a great deal of sunlight, and as such, the opportunity to generate power from solar energy is available. SolarWorks!, the country’s leading pay-as-you-go solar home system and energy services provider, has taken advantage of the opportunity. In January 2019 the company was offered a $2 million debt facility by solar-focused investor SunFunder, which is expected to positively impact more than 65,000 people with improved energy access, according to SunFunder.

Zola Electric

Tanzania’s Zola Electric, formerly Off Grid Electric, is a micro-solar leasing business. The company installs self-sustaining solar systems for users, which come with panels, lithium battery, super-efficient lights, and a meter. The company has offices in Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast, as well as the Netherlands and San Francisco. At the end of 2014, the solar firm raised $16 million in funding, according to DisruptAfrica.