INTERVIEW-Beyond light, solar startup seeks to plug in rural homes in Africa

Friday, 7 April 2017 01:00 GMT

“It is about changing expectations, raising aspirations, and empowering people to become part of the knowledge economy” By Kieran Guilbert

DAKAR, April 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Access to off-grid solar energy in rural areas of Africa goes beyond lighting up homes – it also enables people to connect to the wider world and boosts their economic prospects, said the head of one of the continent’s biggest solar companies.

Azuri Technologies’ entry level solar system – for which customers pay a one-off installation fee, then use scratch cards or mobile phone payments to top up on a weekly or monthly basis – provides eight hours of lighting each day.

Having power at home for the first time encourages customers to also buy mobile phones, radios and televisions, giving them regular access to the media and the internet, said Simon Bransfield-Garth, chief executive officer of UK-based Azuri.

“This is about so much more than just providing light,” Bransfield-Garth told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. “It is about changing expectations, raising aspirations, and empowering people to become part of the knowledge economy.

“One thing you can be sure of is that once people have solar power in their lives, they’ll never go back to kerosene,” he said.

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