Kerosene is the fuel of choice for families living off the grid in sub-Saharan Africa – however it inflicts a heavy toll on people’s health and costs up to $8 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Compared to the 10 to 15 cents per kWh paid by residents in the US and UK, it costs 400 times more to charge a mobile phone in rural Kenya. Solar power is a promising alternative, but it often costs too much for African families to buy outright – which is why companies like Azuri Technologies have come up with a Pay-As-You-Go model (PAYG) for solar kits.
The PAYG model allows customers to pay an up-front fee of around $10 for a solar charger kit that includes a two- to five-watt solar panel and a control unit that powers LED lights and charges devices like mobile phones. Energy is then paid for as and when it’s needed, either in advance each week, or when families have enough money to spare. It normally takes about 18 months to pay off one of the solar kit, after which the electricity is free to the new owner. PAYG is similar to existing models in Africa that allow hundreds of millions of Africans to purchase mobile phone minutes and kerosene fuel incrementally. So far, families find that instead of paying $2 to $3 a week for kerosene, they pay less than half that for solar energy.
Azuri isn’t alone either; Angaza Design and M-KOPA are two other companies that offer PAYG services across the continent. Their customer bases are testament to the popularity of affordable solar power. Azuri has over 21,000 customers in 10 countries, M-KOPA already has 30,000 customers, and Angaza is on track to reach 10,000 customers in the next nine to 12 months.
Images by Azuri Technologies