News Column

Kenya-Based Tech Start-Up Gets Kshs 1.72 Billion Loan to Expand Services

February 7, 2014

Michael Ouma

In a development that could see it reach more Kenyans with no access to grid electricity, M-KOPA Solar has received US $ 20 million (Kshs 1.72 billion) in funding from Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) to finance the expansion of its customer base from the current 50,000 homes to 1 million homes by 2018.

M-KOPA Solar is an asset financing firm which sells solar home systems to off grid households on a 12-month mobile money payment plan. The solar system is sold via Safaricom agents with payments disbursed using M-PESA.

Jesse Moore M-KOPA Solar MD said: "The M-KOPA Solar model makes world class solar systems affordable for low income consumers - most of whom live below the poverty line. It's a model that is also proving attractive to investors. At the heart of our business is our patented technology platform that combines embedded GSM with mobile payments to revolutionise asset financing."

Research indicates that Kenyans spend over Ksh 86 billion a year on kerosene though many would prefer to have cleaner and healthier alternatives.

Jeremy Ngunze, CBA CEO said: "As a group, we understand the aspirations and realities of African economies and this investment in M-KOPA Solar makes sound business sense for us. There is very little formal credit or financial information on how off grid households consume and pay for energy. We're very impressed with M-KOPA Solar's technology platform, which allows them to extend credit to customers who are otherwise lacking formal collateral or credit histories. And it is clear that there is an enormous, creditable market that wants to be empowered by cutting-edge energy, telecommunications and financial solutions."

Other lenders in M-KOPA Solar's debt facility are Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, LGT Venture Philanthropy, clients of Imprint Capital, and Netri Foundation. The Ksh 1.72billion in funding includes grants from DFID UK, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Shell Foundation. And there is re-investment by lead equity investors Gray Ghost Ventures. Funds are being used to scale up sales and operations in East Africa, expansion into other markets, R&D and business intelligence.

M-KOPA Solar currently offers customers a high quality "d.light" D20G solar system with 3 lights, phone charging and a solar powered radio - all backed by a 2-year warranty. The system can be acquired after making a deposit of Ksh 2,999 followed by 360 daily payments of Ksh 50 (inclusive of VAT).

Repayment rates on the M-KOPA Solar payment package are at 95 per cent even though most households have per capita incomes below Ksh 172 per day. A recent independent survey, by TNS Research International Kenya, reported that 97 per cent of households with M-KOPA Solar were saving money compared to their previous daily spend on kerosene.

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Source: AllAfrica

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