KANGEMI, KENYA— In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. Customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
Gilbert Ondieki is installing a solar panel from M-Kopa on the roof of his shop in Kangemi, on the outskirts of Nairobi.
He says having a steady supply of electricity has meant more sales, earning more cash for his family.
“Mkopa Solar has really boosted my business because in the past when darkness set in I would close for the day, but now I’m able to work late into the night and close whenever I want to,” said Ondieki.
M-Kopa, whose name comes from the Swahili word for "borrow," sells the solar kits for $35 — and customers then pay 50 cents a day for a year, after which they own their systems.
The kit contains an 8 watt solar panel, two LED bulbs, a rechargeable flashlight, a phone charger and a rechargeable radio.
MKOPA users pay using their mobile phones making it more efficient to track cost and use.
“In ten years the rest of the world will look at what leap-frogging technologies came out of Kenya and came out of East Africa and I think we will have a situation where this part of the world is the role model for others, going off the grid, harnessing the power of the sun and connecting people reliably, affordably and quickly in a way that’s never been done before,” said Jesse Moore, M-Kopa's CEO.
And business is booming.
Gloria Luchidio is one of more than 200 M-Kopa customer care representatives helping people across East Africa with their solar energy systems.
M-Kopa now has pay-as-you-go customers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
It offers an alternative to traditional power companies such as in Kenya, where only four million households are connected to the national electricity grid in a country of 42 million.