M Kopa Solar is installing off-grid solar systems in Kenya. M Kopa, founded in 2012 in Kenya, has been installing off-grid M kopa solar systems, which recipients pay for with mobile phone based payment systems, such as M-Pesa.
“Our systems comprise two small solar panels, two lamps, a rechargeable radio, flashlight, and plug point for cellphone charging,” says co-founder Chad Larson.
“Customers pay us via their cellphones, daily or weekly, at a rate of $0.40 per day. This is approximately 10 cents less than a household’s average daily kerosene expenditures. We did some research around that. Once paid off, the system is yours to keep.”
To prevent non-payment, M-Kopa’s products are fitted with wireless switches that are connected to a customer’s phone.
“When someone doesn’t pay, the lights go off. Once they start paying again, the power comes back on,” says Larson.
Business is going well for M-Kopa with recent expansion outside Kenya, into Uganda and Tanzania.
“We are adding some 500 new customers per day to our database. The bulk of them live in Kenya, where we service one in every 20 households at the moment.”
Xavier Helgesen, co-founder of Off Grid Electric in Tanzania, agrees. His company has been installing thousands of pay-as-you- go solar systems.
“To use the energy our systems produce; clients have to send us a mobile payment via
M-Pesa. When we receive their money, we automatically send them a password, which has to be entered into the system’s meter. After that, the lights go on,” he says, noting that Off Grid remains the system’s owner.
Like Larson, Helgesen sees basic solar in Africa as an incredible business opportunity.
“We are growing by 12,000 households per month and we have expanded into Uganda and Rwanda, with other countries being on the cards in the near future.”