A company is looking to light up off-grid, rural African communities using an innovative “pay-as-you-go” system.
U.K. based Azuri Technologies is using mobile technology to let customers purchase solar power as they use it. According to the company, mobile phone penetration in Sub-Saharan Africa is “almost ubiquitous.”
The need to broaden access to clean energy – especially in the home – is pressing. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), almost 1.3 billion people across the planet lack access to electricity.
“The basic idea behind Azuri Technologies is to reach out to the low income earners in the rural communities that cannot afford to buy a solar system on a cash basis,” Lydia Kobusinge, sales director for Azuri, told CNBC’s Sustainable Energy.
Kobusinge added that “within the technology is viewed what we call a ‘pay as you go’ solar system, which helps the end users in rural communities to acquire this system by paying in instalments.”
The company’s entry level PayGo solar system provides users with eight hours of clean lighting daily.
Users pay a one-off installation fee for the system, and then use either a scratch card or their mobile phone to top up their unit, with credit bought on a weekly or monthly basis.
Cost will vary depending on the region and size of the solar system, but Azuri say that in Kenya, for example, users will pay a $10 deposit at installation, with weekly payments of between $2.50-$3.50 per week for a period of between 12 to 18 months; between $130-$180 will be paid before the system is unlocked.
Azuri say that the top up is priced to be lower than people’s “current weekly spend on kerosene and phone charging.”
“After the seven days or whatever the customer has paid for has elapsed, the power goes off automatically and they have to top up again,” Kobusinge said.
“At the end of the total payment they buy the last unlock card… the system is automatically unlocked, and they own it,” she added.
Azuri represent a growing number of companies looking to tap in to the developing world’s need for electricity and its massive uptake of mobile technology. Earlier this year, CNBC spoke to M-KOPA Solar, a Nairobi based company that is also helping to pioneer the use of pay as you go solar in Africa.
“We believe we’ve developed a proposition which has global potential… [but] our core focus is East Africa and we’re still really just getting started here,” Jesse Moore, co-founder and Managing Director of the company, told CNBC at the time.
The benefits for users of systems such as M-KOPA’s and Azuri’s can be considerable. With extra light, children can do schoolwork at home and businesses can stay open longer. “My business can continue up to 9pm,” Azuri customer Bartholomew Wanjala Wafula said.