May 31, 2018—Chinese firm Shenzhen JCN New Energy Technology said early this week it is seeking to introduce financial technology (fintech) in Africa that will boost solar power uptake by targeting low income households.
According to Xinhua, Amdy Luo, the Sales Director, said the firm has developed proprietary technology that enables households to purchase a solar kit and make small mobile monthly payment towards the cost of the power kit.
Luo said during the Seventh Oil and Gas, Africa and Power and Energy 2018 Expo in Nairobi that its technology links customer monthly payments to system function. “If a customer doesn’t make the required monthly pay, their system turns off and this reduces risk of non-payment,” he said.
Luo said that a key impediment to use of the solar for lightning homes is the high cost of the equipment. “With our technology we enable families to acquire a modern solar kit and make monthly payments and thereby avoid high upfront cost associated with solar power,” he said. Plans are to start in Kenya before spreading into the rest of East Africa.
Once the customer makes a payment, he or she receives a code on the mobile phone which is entered via a touch pad to activate the solar home system. The PAYGO solar kits are available for as little as 80 US dollars for 20 watts systems that can light up to two bulbs and charge mobile phones. The more expensive kits retail for 120 watts and can light up to four bulbs, a charge mobile phones and a television set.
Shenzhen JCN New Energy Technology hopes to accelerate the uptake of solar usage in Kenya by allowing the bottom of the pyramid consumers to make a small deposit of 10 pc of the value of the kit and thereafter make small monthly payments of between five and $20 until they complete the payments.
In order to increase uptake of the kits, solar companies can buy the units in bulks and provide loans to poor households in order to improve their accessibility.
The PAYGO Platform has been designed alongside hardware, for seamless integration and field-tested over five years. The solar kits targets rural households with small daily incomes, no access to finance as well as those currently using fossils fuels for lighting and phone charging or those currently using expensive battery-charging systems.
PAYGO can handle contracts with consumers, generate invoices and receive payments automatically, monitor customer’s system data through the mobile phone network (GSM) as well as manage sales.
The lightning system is ideal in Africa because it offers remote monitoring and maintenance. The solar home system has already worked successfully in Cambodia where over 220,000 lives have been positively impacted.
An estimated 600 million households in Africa have no access to electricity and are forced to use biomass for household cooking and kerosene for lightning.
Use of firewood has been associated with respiratory diseases due to the smoke. Luo said that the PAYGO kits will enable Africa to tap into its abundant sunshine that is available throughout the year. He said that solar is a form of renewable energy that has little or low carbon footprint.