Report Open Access

Off-grid Solar in Africa & European Start-ups

Binet Silvia

Nuñez-Jimenez, Alejandro

This report explores the present and future of the off-grid solar private sector from the perspective of entrepreneurs. By answering the classical five W questions: “Why? Where? When? What? (How?) Who?” this study reviews the emergence and dynamics of the start-ups that have shaped the field of energy access field for the past decade. In the first section, the question “Why off-grid matters?” serves as an introduction to our study. Next, we analyse where and when off-grid solar start-ups have emerged, and we continue with what are their main activity areas and how these start-ups connect developed and developing economies through this new market. To conclude, we address the “Who?” question in order to understand the people behind these organizations and which path led them to work in this sector.
This report highlights the key geographical spots that gave birth to the off-grid solar sector, both in Europe with Germany and UK playing a leading role, and in Africa. There, Eastern countries have been the pioneers, especially Kenya and Tanzania. Likewise, it describes how the sector has expanded across the two continents in the past decade reaching the western states of Africa through the action of several central European countries (France, The Nether-lands). The diversification of the firms’ focus area emerges as a recent trend, and seems likely to increase within the next years, which could possibly affect the geographical distribution of the companies. The heterogeneity in country and study backgrounds of the founders points out to the key role of combining expertise for addressing all the challenges of the off-grid solar market.
To collect different perspectives, this report includes two interviews with experts in off-grid solar. The first one with Farouk Maate Kibaba, Executive Director at the Green Lake Peace Centre, who provides unique insights into the Ugandan Energy sector and the role of solar installations in this promising African market. In the second interview, we talk to Sebastian Weida, Product Manager at Mobisol (the first and best-established distributor European company of off-grid solar products), who explains the challenges and motivations for working in the off-grid solar private sector.

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