SOUTH AFRICA FALLS BEHIND

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Using the pay-as-you-go model popularised by mobile phones, a remarkable Kenyan company, M-Kopa Solar, is providing rent-to-own solar energy products that will help provide cheap solar power to rural homes.

The M-Kopa IV Solar Home System includes a solar panel, control unit, three low-energy LED light bulbs (one of which is a portable, rechargeable torch) and a rechargeable radio. The control unit also has a USB port for charging cellphones. It’s a perfect off-the-grid solar system for Africa, where land-based infrastructure is poor and electricity supply is frequently erratic.

For a deposit of $35, buyers get the system then make 365 daily payments of $0.43 through mobile money system M-Pesa. When it is all paid off, the system belongs to the buyer outright.

M-Kopa has sold about 300,000 units in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana. It sells 500 units a day and it aims to sell 1-million M-Kopa systems by the end of 2017. It employs 650 people in the four countries and a further 1,000 field agents.

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