Nearly 20% of the world's population has no electricity.
Rachel Nuwer tells the story of a group of London graduates who are apparently desperate to help thousands of people in Africa get energy from the sun.
Can their ideas teach one or two things to Western Power suppliers?
Fidel Mberabagabo lives on a muddy road
Building mud and concrete houses on both sides surrounded by hazy, soft green hills.
Like most people in the rural Rwamagana area of Rwanda, he is a farmer.
Like them, the finances are tight;
He never knew how much he would make in a month.
But Mberabagabo's life is now different from many of his neighbors in an important way: he has electricity.
In developed countries, it is assumed that the light bulb will be turned on as soon as the switch is gently pressed;
They can get unlimited power to charge a lot of equipment;
The reserved refrigerator and the heated house with artificial cooling will maintain the right temperature.
But as anyone who has experienced the aftermath of a hurricane or finds himself in a power outage will prove, life will basically stop if these precious facilities are taken away.
However, for all our dependence on power, about 1.
There are 2 billion people around the world-16% of the world's population-who are simply inaccessible.
In Rwanda, for example, less than 20% of the population lives in houses with electricity-a fact that hinders development and increases poverty.
This is a huge problem that determines many of the problems we face in the 21 st century.
For some, however, such statistics are not despair but opportunities.
"This is an untapped market," said Laurent Van Hook, chief operating officer of BBOXX, London.
Power grid energy to the developing world.
"There are huge opportunities to start a business, and there is a great possibility of affecting life.
For Van Houcke and his colleagues, rural residents like Mberabagabo who are short of electricity are not charity cases but real customers.
Profitable companies that make, install and affordable loansEfficient solar energy-
In just four years, they have brought power to about 130,000 households and businesses in 35 countries-and by 2020 they are targeting more than a million.
It all started with Imperial College London.
While others focus on providing resumes for future careers in the banking or consulting sector, electrical engineering student Van Hook and his two BBOXX co-
Founder Christopher Baker
Brian and Mansoor Hamayun decided to set up Equinox: a charity dedicated to powering up several communities in Rwanda.
In the summer of 2009, when they flew to Rwanda's friendly Kigali,
Back in the capital, they can see clearly the challenges facing the country.
There are many lookout points in this mountainous city. You can see charming buildings painted with cream and yellow colors, dotted with parks and several high-rise buildings.
But after sunset, a previously invisible partition appeared: the light suddenly stopped outside the core of the capital.
If there are so many citizens in Rwanda who still cannot access electricity, how will it achieve its goal of becoming "Singapore in Africa?
Instead of staying in Kigali, they spend most of their time living and working in rural communities in Rwanda, where there are about 200 families.
As they explore various ways to power new neighbors, they realize that the grid will never Power Rwanda and other people who are currently out of power: these communities are scattered in huge areas, too poor, such a large infrastructure cannot be afford.
They came up with a great idea: their conclusion is that Africa will, to a large extent, bypass the grid and go straight across Europe and North America into the solar sector-just like skipping landlines, this is rare in rural Africa and mobile phones are popular.
It is encouraging that their field survey also shows that many Africans in these communities fully accept the idea of paying for solar energy.
"If you go to the customer, tell them," You paid $5'
"Kerosene and batteries are $20 a month, but at the same price, you can use electricity," said Hamayun, CEO of BBOXX-well, it's a very easy sale.
"Governments and development agencies also understand that solar energy is long-standing.
Long-term solutions for these customers.
This encourages them to transform charity into charity. profit venture.
"Ultimately, our motivation is to scale up our business, which means making money and charging customers, rather than seeing them as beneficiaries," Baker said.
Brian, CTO of BBOXX
So why be money? Do business?
This means long-term investment: free projects and charity
Organized giveaways often do not have a lasting impact because they are often one-off
He said their reliance on donor funds also limits their scope.
The company needs to raise investor funds to enable them to build a team and bring technology to standard.
However, even though they found something on the ground, as Hamayun said, almost everyone they came into contact "thought that what we were doing was very dangerous and could not be expanded because it was Africa.
He continued that the first round of financing proved extremely difficult because there was no real precedent for developing technology operations in Africa.
"These customers are not fully served in all possible ways," he said . ".
They eventually found Khosla Impact, an initial investor who believed in the idea.
At the same time, three other similar
At the same time as BBOXX was launched, grid solar companies also appeared. Indeed, pay-as-you-
Go solar is an increasingly popular solution that can bring power to people who have never had electricity in Africa.
Mobisol in Berlin
Installation of 85,000 units in Tanzania and Rwanda;
The off-grid power company in San Francisco serves 50,000 households in Tanzania; and M-
Kenyan company KOPA has provided electricity to more than 500,000 families in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
Efforts to date have been concentrated in East Africa, but it is undoubtedly a matter of time for more companies to join the roster and expand the existing roster.
According to a recent report by the World Bank Group, energy storage in global emerging markets is expected to grow by 40% annually over the next decade.
It turns out that the technology itself is the easiest part to start and run these operations.
In BBOXX's case, the solar energy collected from the panels on the roof was stored overnight, while the remote connection on the 2g battery network allowed the geographic location and performance data to be sent back to headquarters
The algorithm monitors the health of the device and allows the team to proactively replace the faded battery (
Usually three years later).
As for payment, the team realized very early that rural customers could never afford BBOXX units.
So they chose to pay. as-you-
Monthly installment plan.
"This removes the huge upfront hurdles that solar systems in the developing world usually face," Baker said . "Brian says.
Customers can also purchase accessories that BBOXX aims to minimize energy use, including razors, smartphones and 24-
Compared to 24 Watts of the same Western model, it consumes 11 watts of power.
Finally, people can pay by mobile phone transfer.
"We don't accept cash," Baker said . "Brian says.
"We are 100% mobile currency"-a decision to take advantage of cash preferences --
Free payments that appear across Africa.
Five months ago, when BBOXX set up an office in Rwamagana, the area where Mberabagabo lived, he was one of the first people to register.
The technology "changed my life," he said.
Four lights from his family enhanced their sense of security.
Becoming an intruder, he also realizes that he no longer needs to light candles and lights that emit smoke, and he knows that it is harmful to the health of his children.
As the father of the five children, the light means that the older children of Mberabagabo can read and learn at night and then sleep.
"Now, we have enough time to do whatever we need to do," he said . ". 13-year-
Old Claude, his oldest child, said he "liked" the TV he rented at home and their first TV.
For the best viewing, Mberabagabo set it up in a home theater room with no windows, cool and complete except for the TV and the bench located opposite
Although Claude was stunned by a football match in Brazil the most recent afternoon, he insisted the news was his favorite show.
He is shy and polite, and even if a foreign journalist asks him if he is sure that sports and cartoons are not his favorite, he will stick to this unexpected answer.
"Now I can know who is in the government," he explained . ".
"I can ask better questions at school.