PayGo solar home systems to rural off-grid communities in Sub-Saharan Africa
Azuri Technologies is a commercial provider of PayGo solar home systems to rural off-grid communities. With the widest reach of any provider in Sub Saharan Africa, Azuri is leveraging solar and mobile technology to allow users in 11 different countries to access power on a pay-as-you-go basis. This provides clean, safe renewable energy for as little as half the cost of the fossil fuels being replaced, and delivering economic, health, and social benefits. Azuri’s HQ is located in Cambridge, United Kingdom, with staff based in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
Improve the quality of living in rural, off-grid Sub Saharan Africa, through providing a sustainable and affordable clean energy solution.
Households in rural off-grid Sub Saharan Africa.
- Home access to clean renewable energy
- Significant drop in the use of Kerosene, leading to health and environmental benefits.
- Gives flexibility to households. Tasks which require light can now be carried out at their convenience.
- Significantly reduced amount of money and time spent on energy access.
- Increase in revenue for food, health care, and education
- Providing employment opportunities in rural areas through the retail, installation, and after sales support of Azuri products.
- Azuri’s PayGo Energy service combines intelligent solar technology with an innovative mobile payment model. Customers purchase credit via SMS or mobile money service to top up their unit for a given amount of time. This enables off-grid households to access affordable, pay-as-you-go electricity for lighting and device charging.
- Unique HomeSmart™ technology ‘learns’ usage patterns and then tailors power provision, to ensure the service delivers the best user experience depending on the available power, allowing households to rely on low cost solar power even in poorer weather conditions.
- Empowering off-grid people to make climate friendly energy choices.
- Azuri’s distribution model uses already existing partners who have existing rural distribution networks. This enables implementation in extremely remote regions, which otherwise would not be possible.
- A byproduct of Azuri’s unique distribution model is that it directly encourages small business growth rural regions.
- Small distributed power systems enable rapid deployment and scalability.
One of the unique features of the Azuri PayGo business model is that end users can pay for as much or as little system credit as they can afford, at any given time. Prior to deployment, Azuri will liaise with local partners and conduct market research, so that a unique payment plan for the specific region can be calculated. An example of this are households with seasonal income trends. This allows the family to pay more when their income is greater due to, for instance, harvest season, and less when crops are being grown. This flexibility means sustainable financing of the system on a customer level is far more achievable, as payments can be made in sympathy to other financial outgoings the family may have at the time.
The PayGo payment plan is fundamentally available due to Azuri selling through large partners, who are capable of funding the upfront capital required to initially purchase and install the Azuri system. This is then paid off via the regular top-ups from end user, over an average of 18 months (depending on calculated payment plan). This enables smaller more frequent / affordable payments to be made by the end user. Concurrent deployments are also achievable due to this financing structure, with revenue streams not being tied up over a number of regions, with partners only focusing on the market they are financing product deployment into, and Azuri revenue not being spread over various regions.
Azuri has played a significant part in a number of sustainable energy, climate change, and technology for good projects. These range from the 'Power Africa' program, which is supported by various government bodies in and out of Africa, to the United Nations 'Momentum For Change' initiative, where Azuri was one of three winners in the category of 'Financing for Climate Friendly Investment' held at COP 21.
Azuri’s business model can serve as a template for others to drive global energy access. The replicable nature of the model was recognised in mid-2013 with a $1Million award from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) to Azuri, to support the establishment of PayGo solar power in Rwanda. The 2 year program is funding the creation of a distribution channel as well as the supply of 10,000 Azuri pay-as-you-go solar systems. Besides developing Rwanda itself, the project intends to provide a template that can be replicated in similar low-income geographies
On a more regional scale the West African Power Industry Convention (WAPIC) has named the pay-as-you-go solar service implemented by Azuri Technologies and partner Oasis Africa Resources, as the winner of its Best Off-Grid Electrification Project. The program which initially targeted the Assin district located in Ghana is set to deliver power to over 100,000 households, with particular focus on Cocoa growing regions before being rolled out on a wider scale. The project aligns with the Government’s current efforts to bring reliable, renewable power to Ghana as a whole, and is supported by Ghana Minister of Power the Hon. Dr Kwabena Donkor.
The provision of even basic power is transformative for both consumers and the local economy, significantly expanding household productivity. According to independent surveys (Planète d’Entrepreneurs2014 and others) Azuri’s solar power enables additional activity and revenue generation from keeping retail stalls open, or processing crops for up to an extra 3 hours per day. This flexibility means that users have the option to use their day more efficiently, spending more time on tasks which directly benefit them, rather than spending hours or even days a week traveling to charging mobile phones, purchase kerosene, or having to leave market early to complete tasks at home which require light. Empowering end users to be more productive with their day.
The ‘Paygo’ model used by Azuri requires local agents to install the systems, train users, and provide after sales support. To achieve this ‘Train the Trainer’ program has been created, where by Azuri Managers train the regional partners, who then train the local agents, who then train the end user. Training covers all of the aspects of Azuri system deployment, from sales training and technical installation, to customer management and after sales support.
Azuri products provide a platform to develop the local economy through the distribution, installation, and training that retailing requires. For Azuri to reach the most rural communities, it is vital that the last mile retailing, installation, and support is carried out by member of the local community. Azuri uses a ‘Train the trainer’ program, where by information is cascaded down from regional partners to local employees, passing on the skill set required to teach end users about the Azuri features, and how to use the system.
Azuri worked closely with the Ghana Cocoa Board and the AMCOFA District Cocoa Farmers Association in the approval process to deploy systems in this region. This is a common occurrence in the majority of deployments, where Village Leaders, elders, and Chairmen are consulted (when possible) to gain approval of the systems, and aid integration into the local community. This has knock on benefits to how receptive end users are to training, and to adopting the technology.
Azuri systems provide a number of co-benefits, with users receiving additional revenue from being able to work past sun-set, keeping shops open for longer, or for periods where more trade occurs. Data collected by Planète d'Entrepreneurs from a study carried out in Rwanda shows that on average, shops can stay open 2.5h longer per day, and that 100% of Azuri users are making more money. The study also showed that 68% of users have more friends visit, and let other members of the local community charge their devices. Giving significant social benefits to not just the family who owns the system, but their friends too. This socioeconomic flexibility gives users more freedom to carry out tasks when they want to, socialize when they want to, and study when they want to. Azuri systems also deliver health benefits from taking a step away from kerosene based lighting, with 84% of users ceasing to use it at all, and 96% noticing a drastic improvement in air quality within the home due to this
Affordability is one of the key factors of the Azuri ‘PayGo’ system. In-depth research into the weekly spend on mobile phones and kerosene has been carried out prior to each deployment. The data from this is then used in conjunction with the local Azuri partner to analyze the average budget in that given region. Payment terms are calculated and adjusted accordingly, so that the payments are sustainable for the end user. The ‘PayGo’ system also means no up-front costs for the end user, which historically has been one of the main issues with adopting solar systems in rural regions, as it makes them too expensive for the majority of people being targeted.
In deployment Azuri feel it necessary to acknowledge the local culture, and integrate with this as much as possible. This is predominantly facilitated by the Azuri regional partner employing local agents who are already part of the local community. Further to this, village Elders, local councils, and tribe leaders will be consulted on how to most efficiently integrate Azuri systems. The Minister of Power Ghana the Hon. Dr Kwabena Donkor formally launched the PayGo home solar power in the Assin district of Ghana, to assist with the deployment and integration of the local community, being a figurehead for the initiative.
Azuri end users top-up their credit via a mobile money service which communicates with the Azuri server. This system uses SMS, where codes are sent from the Azuri server to the end user, keeping their system in credit and functional. This gives a large amount of data which can be monitored and analyzed by Azuri and our regional partners for usage and spending patterns. Registration data is also collected, which includes the end users personal information and location, adding further demographic data which can be analyzed.
After deployment Azuri management works extremely closely with its regional partners, providing consultancy on day to day management of the systems, how to analyze data provided by the Azuri server, the best way to develop their Azuri business, and strategize into the future.
Azuri has also worked with ‘not for profit organizations such as GVEP, to publish reports on particular projects.
Azuri’s innovative PayGo solar is a commercially viable offering, which is compatible with the African rural economy, and has significant ability to scale without requiring government hand-outs or subsidies. The physical autonomy of this technology allows it to operate in the market like consumer electronics; it can be rolled out at the same speed and with the granularity of modern portable devices, long before major infrastructure projects have even left the planning phase. As such, Azuri believes that smart, distributed PayGo power has the potential to do for renewable energy adoption what the mobile phone did for the landline. Focusing on Sub Saharan Africa alone, Azuri’s revenues have increased threefold year on year since 2012, with deployments currently in 11 countries.
Azuri’s business model is built around local, established distributors. However, this should be viewed as a benefit to replication, rather than an inhibitor. Organisations that have highly experienced in-country networks facilitate rural reach and provide a distribution network of local entrepreneurs. Through its partnerships, Azuri has reached isolated rural communities that would otherwise have been inaccessible. Reciprocally, with Azuri’s support, SMEs can grow their business at a pace to meet the huge customer demand for the solution. In Kenya, one partner grew from a single entrepreneur to a team of six full-time and 50 part-time sub-dealers, installers, and top-up card sellers in the space of 18 months.
Ross Gilbert, Sales & Marketing Coordinator, Azuri Technologies Ltd.
+44 (0) 7709 020 015
Name:PayGo solar home systems to rural off-grid communities in Sub-Saharan Africa
Country:Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania
Ross Gilbert, Sales & Marketing Coordinator, Azuri Technologies Ltd.
+44 (0) 7709 020 015
Project status:Ongoing project
- Equity investment