Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund Launches Household Solar Competition

Woman next to solar panels that power a solar drip irrigation system (Jennifer Burney / Stanford University)

Kenya - The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) has launched a new household solar competition under its Renewable Energy and Climate Adaptation Technologies(REACT) window. The competition aims to drive innovation in companies that have the potential to build affordable off-grid stand-alone solar household systems (SHS) in the target countries of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

AEFC is an Africa-based USD$256 million Enterprise Challenge Fund that works with the private sector on a risk sharing basis across 23 African countries to reduce poverty. It provides catalytic funding as grants or zero interest loans to private sector businesses that have a positive impact on the rural poor in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Speaking at the launch in Nairobi on May 10 2017, Lord Paul Boateng, Chair of AECF Ltd. said, “Access to electricity is critical for the growth of small and micro business in Africa. With the REACT household solar funding window, AECF Limited intends to spark the growth of rural economies that can potentially address youth unemployment and increase income for women running small business across Africa.”

The total REACT Household Solar window funding is £8 million, with available funding to businesses ranging from US$250,000 (£193,000) to US$1.5 million (£1.16 million).

The new window will build on REACT’s existing work, which has so far held four rounds of competitions and invested in 71 East African businesses that have provided over 500,000 rural households with access to electricity. These businesses have created 3,000 jobs and leveraged US$150 million in follow-on funding.

Dr. Paul Greener, Chief Executive Officer of AECF Ltd., said, “We will build on the success of the REACT funding windows in East Africa to tackle one of the most pressing barriers to growth for the SHS sector in these countries which is access to finance.”

The fund will support innovative and transformational business models that help people to access electricity through off-grid solar household systems and give commercially viable businesses the developmental support to create sustainable SHS markets. It also aims to ensure access to electricity is affordable to the rural and peri-urban poor and to capture and disseminate ecosystem lessons on how solar household systems deliver positive social and economic impact for those same people.

The new REACT window is supported by the United Kingdom government and runs from the 10 th May to 25 th June 2017. The winning companies shall be announced in September 2017.