Hence, ironically, it is the world’s poorest that can best afford the most sophisticated lighting. Off-grid African households easily spend 50-60 cents per day on kerosene lighting and basic charging, so some quick cocktail napkin math points towards a real potential, which is further backed by SunnyMoney’s market experience:
“Selling through the schools with teachers acting as agents, parents are primarily buying the lamps so that their children have proper light to study by at night. Education is a big priority for them,” Brave Mhonie says.
SunnyMoney sees smaller lights as a stepping stone towards more sophisticated equipment, convincing people that the technology is sound and reliable. Here, new approaches, such as harnessing the broad use of mobile payments in Africa, are also helping spread the equipment to the cash-strapped customers.
One model sees customers paying a deposit for a solar system. Using mobile payments, the customer then pays about 45 cents per day in order to get energy. After 12 months of regular payments, the so-called ‘pay-as-you-go’ arrangement, users acquire full ownership of their solar system and have access to free solar energy.
The International Energy Agency estimates that 500 million Africans will rely on solar powered lighting by 2030. Transported from Asia, solar equipment thus represents a huge business opportunity for Maersk Line, essentially slow-steaming Africa’s next revolution.