Energy. The property that powers nearly everything in the modern world. Energy is essential to life, and especially to reducing poverty and improving economic growth. All the major sectors, such as agriculture, mining, technology and education require cost effective energy to power the development of the continent. The global demand for energy minerals is consistently rising, as we move towards the greater use of solar power and renewable energy.
Unfortunately, Africa has been facing an energy crisis, with 625 million of it’s close to 1 billion population currently living without power. That is nearly 68% of the population. Considering Africa’s immense buildup of natural resources, however, this statistic becomes particularly troubling. Renewable energy technology is thus an incredibly important investment for the African continent. Luckily, there are a few start-ups invested in powering renewable energy technology on the African continent.
Here are just a few start-ups doing great things in Africa:
This start-up, founded in 2011, sells high quality, affordable solar home systems to low-income earners, who then pay them back in installments via mobile money. Once the installment is fully paid by the end of the year, buyers become owners with full, free access to solar energy. Through this, buyers no longer have to rely on kerosene lamps and makeshift fires to light their way, instead being able to use solar lights and charging stations. The initiative, which is the world’s leading pay-as-you-go energy provider to off-the-grid homes, has since spread to Uganda and Tanzania, powering 500 000 homes across East Africa. Since its inception, the initiative has experienced much success and recognition, winning the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Award in 2013, the AfriCom Award for Rural TeleComs in 2013, as well as the Zayed Future Energy Prize 2015. They were ranked number 34 on internationally renowned college Massachussett’s Institute of Technology’s (MIT) list of 50 Smartest Companies of 2017, beating out heavyweight companies such as Adidas and IBM, as well as ranking on Fortune Magazine’s list of Top 50 Companies Changing the World. Of the initiative, its Chief Executive Officer,Nick O’Donohoe, says, “M-KOPA is a remarkable company that is transforming lives in East Africa by providing affordable energy, financial inclusion and essential products for low-income households. It empowers its customers economically, improves people’s health and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Our equity and debt investments are aimed at helping the company build on its success and reach many more of the 600 million people across Africa who currently live without electricity.”
Founded by Henri Nyakarundi, this startup is an alternative solar-powered mobile kiosk that connects Rwandan communities through charging phones. The kiosk is towed by a bicycle, and can charge 80 phones concurrently. What seems to be such a simple thing has actually greatly impacted on communities. Despite more than 70% of the Rwandan population owning cellphones, less than 25% have access to electricity, according to the World Bank. Thus, the efficacy of the cellphones and communication has been limited. This kiosk combats limited communication, therefore connecting communities. There are 25 kiosks operating in Rwanda currently, with a large up-scale of 600-800 kiosks in the works for the next two years. Nyakarundi says, “I was looking to do something that would not only solve a problem but also had a social impact by creating micro businesses for people.” He employs unemployed people desperately seeking work to run the kiosks, thus creating job opportunities and giving back to the community.
This company offers clean energy and electric vehicle solutions that is promised to revolutionize battery based energy storage for the home and business. The company’s technology uses lithium-ion batteries to store energy power that can allow households and businesses to go off-the-grid through solar power. According to Freedom Won co-founder, Antony English, “This range of energy storage modules contains a lithium-iron phosphate battery capable of over 5 000 charge-discharge cycles of useful life, which will easily serve for over 13 years of daily cycling before the cells would need to be replaced. This ensures a much lower total life cycle cost than any other battery products on the market,”
This 2012 startup, founded by Ericka Mackey and Xavier Helgesen, provides solar power to Tanzanian households through their round-the-clock system of solar paneled roof and lithium-ion battery. Along with this, households are fitted with a meter to monitor energy usage, LED lights, a radio, and a solar-powered phone charger. This system is a low-cost, environmentally-friendly alternative for all of their household needs. The company is largely invested in by Tesla creator Elon Musk’s SolarCity, one of the largest solar energy providers in the US, as well as South Africa’s largest private equity firm, Helios. The startup has been incredibly successful, and awarded the United Nations 2016 Momentum for Change Award. This solar-as-a-service model reduces both the cost and the risk for low-income home owners to adopt solar energy and, as a result, demand exploded. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of homes receiving electricity from Off-Grid:Electric increased from 1,000 to nearly 30,000. In February, the company partnered with the Government of Tanzania in a commitment to bring affordable electricity to 1 million Tanzanian homes by 2017.
This start-up targets one of Africa’s biggest energy issues: cooking on open flames, or with dirty, dangerous fuel, which has been shown to cause immense health complications, environmental damage and deepening poverty. Judith, Stephen and Ruben Walker created African Clean Energy to provide off-grid energy solutions to Africa and other nations, through the development of the ACE1 Ultra-Clean Biomass Cookstove, which has the ability to burn any type of biomass cleanly, both indoors and outdoors. Fuel use is thus reduced by 70%, costs by 50%, and the general health of citizens is improved as they are no longer exposed to harmful chemicals. The cookstove’s battery can also be used to power a charger or LED lighting. Walker says that, “I believe if we can solve major problems in developing countries right now, we should do so. There’s no need to wait until the next, new technology will pop up”.
What do you think of these energy solutions? Let us know in the comments below!