Africa's Rural Homes Foresee a Brighter Future

M-Kopa Solar offer sustainable, cheaper energy to rural homes not linked to the electricity grid.

M-Kopa offers a combination of solar technology, mobile micro payments and extended credit to low-income earners in Kenya. As a result, customers are able to afford solar-power systems that they otherwise wouldn't be able to. The company has sold 1,000 units since it began offering the product commercially in June. Managing Director Jesse Moore discussed how M-Kopa are giving people a "modern, cleaner and longer-lasting technology for less than what they would spend on kerosene or another inefficient substitute."

It is estimated that 80 percent of Kenyan households are not linked to the national electricity grid as it does not extend to many rural communities and connection requires a costly fee. These homes therefore rely on kerosene for lighting and fossil fuels and biomass to power stoves and lamps. According to the World Health Organisation, inhaling fumes from fuels like coal and biomass many of the homes in developing nations are using is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

The package supplied by M-Kopa Solar comprises a 4-watt rooftop solar panel, a control box, three lamps, mobile phone chargers and an optional rechargeable radio. Households pay for this though an M-PESA mobile payment platform set up by Vodafone and Safaricom. After paying a deposit of KSh 2,999 - about £20 - householders then pay KSh 50 a day for a year until they own the kit outright and then the owners receive power for free. Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said that "compared to the KSh 17,000 a year off grid households spend on kerosene solar energy is a much cheaper and safer option." Collymore also stated: "This system addresses some fundamental issues at the bottom of the economic pyramid with 70 to 80 percent of the country living without grid electricity […] Children can't do homework at night without light, and the use of kerosene also concerns us at an environmental level. We can use our technology to address these issues."

M-Kopa is also considering expanding into other Pay-As-You-Go products to markets in developing countries including irrigation systems, refrigerators for shop owners to cool drinks and snacks, as well as sewing machines.