Solar developers power up Africa's off-grid market

Digital Content

Solar companies are scaling up their operations in Africa as they seek to cash in on the expanding off-grid market, while also cutting fuel bills for thousands of families.

South African firm Solar Way announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that it was seeking global partners to roll out its solar charging station.

The SPCD (solar powered charging station) claims to be able to securely charge 14 phones at any one time. Solar Way wants to install the devices in retail outlets, post offices, or mobile phone shops.

"In order to bring the SCPS to the largest possible customer base, we are seeking to partner with mobile operators - particularly those with millions of customers off-grid - as well as retailers and other consumer outlets which have large footprints across Africa and other emerging markets," said Marco Signorini chief executive of Solar Way

The company also launched a new solar powered "candle" that promises to replace the humble wax candle and a mobile phone charger, both of which promise to cut families' fuel bills significantly and help them improve indoor air quality.

According to Solar Way, the average African family living off-grid spends $144 a year on candles, but the new so-called "Power Stix" costs less than $20 each.

In related news, Sunny Money, the retail arm of charity Solar Aid, also announced today that it has passed a quarter million sales, becoming the lead solar lamp retailer on the African continent.

Solar Aid, the charity born out of UK installer Solarcentury, said sales are expected to exceed 320,000 units for the year 2012/13, putting it significantly ahead of the number two in the market, oil giant Total.

According to the World Bank's Lighting Africa programme, there are now seven million people using clean solar-powered lighting in Africa. The market has seen sales of quality-assured solar lighting products double each year for the last three years.

"We are filled with excitement at our prospects of achieving the hugely ambitious mission we have set ourselves: playing the lead role in eradicating the kerosene lantern from the continent by 2020," said Steve Andrews, chief executive of SolarAid and SunnyMoney.