German solar panels for rural Africa

01.11.2017 - Press release

Electricity is in short supply in many parts of rural Africa. German company Mobisol is solving this problem by providing solar power systems for people to generate their own energy, opening up a dynamic job opportunity for many.

Many houses in rural Africa are not connected to the electricity grid. The Berlin-based company Mobisol produces photovoltaics in order to create a method of electricity supply. The idea is to provide affordable and green energy where there is a lack of electricity grids.

The principle of self-provision

Many shop owners in Rwanda and Tanzania charge cell phones for customers using solar power
Many shop owners in Rwanda and Tanzania charge cell phones for customers using solar power© KfW

In Tanzania and Rwanda chargers for mobile telephones and stereo systems sell out fast. Hundreds of thousands of people now have a reliable source of electricity and many even run small businesses.

Some families have purchased a fridge and sell cold drinks, others offer live sport events on their television or charge up mobile phones.

These new economic prospects are astonishing considering that there are virtually no power grids in operation beyond the city limits of many African countries.

People often have no choice but to use fossil fuels. But today, 65,000 households in Tanzania and Rwanda produce clean and affordable power.

They’ve taken their energy supply into their own hands, and Mobisol has helped them do so.

Thomas Gottschalk founded Mobisol in 2010 in Berlin
Thomas Gottschalk founded Mobisol in 2010 in Berlin© KfW

Where there isn’t a grid, people have to generate power themselves. This was Thomas Gottschalk’s simple idea when he founded Mobisol in 2010.

His approach: using photovoltaics to provide people with access to modern communication and electrical engineering.

Gottschalk wanted to create an affordable and also eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels. “Today, our customers don’t have to wait for the power grid anymore,” he says proudly.

The principle is simple: Mobisol supplies a solar panel, ranging from 80W to 200W, for the roof and a battery.

Customers lease the solar home systems that cost between 500 Euro and 1,300 Euro. That’s a major investment for many; with average monthly income in Rwanda of 600 Euro, 820 Euro in Tanzania and 1,200 Euro in Kenya.

Mobile payment

Mobisol customers can lease solar home systems and pay for them via SMS
Mobisol customers can lease solar home systems and pay for them via SMS© KfW

That’s why customers transfer the money via SMS in up to 36 monthly instalments via the M-Pesa mobile payment system – a model commonly employed in a region where hardly anyone has a bank account or access to the Internet.

Key to the success story of the decentralised power supply is financed by KfW’s subsidiary DEG, that is facilitating the rise of renewable energies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mobisol reduces CO₂ emission and creates jobs

Photovoltaic systems not only ensure a constant supply of electricity, but also contribute to considerable CO₂ savings – to date a total of 30,000 tonnes.

Mobisol offers proficient training in various fields
Mobisol offers proficient training in various fields© KfW

Mobisol started out with only a handful of employees and has now grown to accommodate 700 permanent staff, 600 of which work in several African countries.

Mobisol trains technicians, maintenance and customer care staff and sales representatives in two academies on the continent. This means solar home systems can be repaired within 48 hours if needed.

Solar panels serve as creditworthiness

The company plans to facilitate a holistic development of rural regions. Local people should also be able to access other services that are necessary for economic and civic development – for instance health insurance.

The “MobiShops” provide customers with information and sell solar home systems
The “MobiShops” provide customers with information and sell solar home systems© KfW

Mobisol can play an intermediary role in this. Reliable instalment payments by customers serve as a credible recommendation to other companies and is thus for many proof of creditworthiness.

“Our vision is to equip every household currently lacking a power supply with a solar home system,” says Thomas Duveau, business development manager at Mobisol.

Although the company is just starting out in Kenya, success to date gives reason for optimism. Soon thousands of people will be able to assume responsibility for their own power supply.

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