Offgrid-PV: Over 50,000 rent-to-own systems installed in East Africa – comprehensive service and training – additional income for 15,000 small businesses
The PV systems are available in four different sizes ranging from 80, 100, 120 to 200 W. The smallest unit can e.g. illuminate a medium-sized home with seven LED bulbs as well as power a radio, charge various mobile phones and run a TV for some hours during the day. The largest system powers multiple lights, consumer appliances such as a laptop/TV, a DC refrigerator and charges up to ten mobile phones simultaneously. “There is easily enough electricity created each day to run a small business or for customers to simply sell or pass on their excess energy to their community”, Mobisol’s founder and CEO Thomas Gottschalk says.
Locally trained and certified technicians
The solar home systems come complete with several LED light bulbs, portable lantern, mobile phone charger and balance-of-system components including wiring and switches. The plug’n play systems can be quickly installed by locally trained and certified Mobisol technicians according to the company.
The business kits include the necessary appliance as multiple phone charger or a barber’s hair clipper and also includes educational material to help start the business – such as book-keeping essentials. Business kits are also provided with promotional material for the customer with an accompanying poster to hang in front of the shop. “Results from the pilot phase have shown that a full one-third of Mobisol customers used their excess electricity to offer some of these services to their communities and generate extra income”, Gottschalk reports.
Innovative financing via mobile services
“The solar systems are paid off over three years in small installments and are thus also affordable for low-income customers”, Gottschalk says. Using the mobile banking services like M-Pesa the monthly installments can be paid by cell phones from almost anywhere. “In this way, customers without a personal bank account can purchase a system and, for example, relatives from other locations can help to finance it”, Gottschalk stresses.
Remote maintenance services
The systems are offered with a three-year warranty on the battery and a twenty-year guarantee on the solar panel. Comprehensive customer service includes remote maintenance via the well-developed East African mobile network. A toll free service hotline is available for customer enquiries.
Additional income of over 5 million Euros yearly
“Reliable solar power raises the living standards of rural families who do not have access to the electrical grid. Using Mobisol solar energy 150,000 children can now do their homework at night without inhaling the noxious fumes of kerosene lamps. In addition, many of our customers use their solar system commercially: Approximately 15,000 small businesses generate an additional household income of over 5 million Euros per year with their PV system. Mobisol also creates new green jobs and training opportunities in the typically precarious labour markets of East Africa. The Mobisol Academy in Nyamata (Rwanda) and in Arusha (Tanzania) provides a comprehensive education for the company’s employees and so far, over 800 jobs have been created“, according to Gottschalk.
Expanding to Kenya and other markets
“Having installed over 5MW of solar capacity, Mobisol currently compensates for approximately 25,000t of CO2 per year by replacing fossil energy sources thus have empowered over a quarter million beneficiaries”, Gottschalk says. “We are currently expanding our efficient appliances and products portfolio while expanding to Kenya and further new markets in Africa and Asia”, he adds. (HCN)