Pay-as-you-go solar energy project brings light to Africa

Thousands of pay-as-you-go solar energy devices are to be distributed across Africa in an effort to reduce dependency on kerosene generators, which are considered expensive, bad for the environment and potentially dangerous

The Ingenious African Solar fund, launched in November 2012, aims to raise up to £2m to finance the manufacture of devices and provide solar energy to people across southern and eastern Africa.

Called Indigos, the devices are made by UK company Azuri Technologies, which aims to make household solar energy systems more accessible and affordable. Each consists of a battery, a solar panel, LED lights and a mobile phone charger. Each Indigo can charge mobile phones and provide up to eight hours of lighting for two rooms. On average, the devices cut weekly energy spending by around 50% compared to kerosene.

Indigos costs around £45 each, so if the funding target is met there would be the potential for hundreds of thousands to be made available.

The Ingenious scheme means that users will pay around £6 for the devices themselves, followed by a further 60p for each week’s usage. After a few months the user then has the option of paying a lump sum to unlock the device for permanent use.

The fund is being raised through a corporate social responsibility investment programme set up by Ingenious. Investors will get a return, although Ingenious itself does not expect to make a profit from the venture.

“It is a social impact investment, it’s not a donation,” said James Axtell, investments director for Ingenious. “So really our challenge is balancing our returns to Azuri, returns to investors, the cost to the individual household and the number of systems we can roll out.”