More than 640 million Africans, or about 60% of the continent’s population, don’t have access to reliable and affordable grid-connected electricity, and are therefore dependent on energy sources such as kerosene, charcoal and diesel. Likewise, many businesses also suffer from poor power supply. For example, it is estimated that some 95% of the mobile tower sites in the continent’s off-grid regions run on inefficient diesel generators, which significantly drive up costs.

One of the organisations seeking to improve power supply on the continent, is the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has set an ambitious target of adding 160 gigawatts (GW) new generating capacity to achieve universal electricity access by 2025. The AfDBestimates that reaching this goal would require an additional 130 million households to be linked to national power grids as well as 75 million new off-grid connections.

Off-grid power is loosely defined as electricity not associated with a state utility and not part of a national power distribution network. These stand-alone systems typically generate electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and micro-hydro. According to the AfDB, off-grid solutions are essential to speed up the electrification of the continent as “people cannot wait until the grid power reaches every corner of their villages or cities”.

The off-grid industry is already gaining traction, particularly the pay-as-you-go solar kits offered by companies such as M-KopaSolar, Mobisol, LumosGlobal and Off Grid Electric. Over the past few years these operators have provided electricity to hundreds of thousands of households in East and West Africa. Although there are slight differences in their respective offerings, the packages generally comprise a solar panel and battery, with accompanying appliances such as light bulbs, a torch, a mobile phone charger and a radio –some even include a digital television. These companies typically also allow their customers to pay for their solar systems in instalments, often through mobile money.

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Published:22 May 2017




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