Counting Down – 31 Days to the Start of the Last Desert Race in Antarctica

Solar in Kenya – The Story of M-KOPA

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Greetings from Nairobi.

My fundraising campaign for Greenpeace Africa, linked to my participation in the Last Desert Race in Antarctica, aims to raise R250 000 for a solar project in a disadvantaged community in Gauteng. At the same time, we aim to raise awareness about the benefits of solar and other renewable energies given South Africa’s dependence of coal-fired electricity generation.

Positive local and international stories and experiences are key to changing people’s attitude towards, and appreciation for the benefits of solar energy.

As I’m spending this week in Kenya, I would like to share a story about a local solar success story.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) identify affordable access to electricity as essential to eradicating poverty. The World Bank estimate that 34 million Kenyans – 84 percent of the country’s population – have no electricity in their homes. As a result, Kenyans rely on fossil fuels and candles to light their homes. Low-income households spend approximately US$150 per year on kerosene alone, which constitutes twenty percent of household income on average.

Solar 2 c

But in response, a few Kenyan entrepreneurs have developed an affordable solar solution which is generating much interest in Kenya and the wider East African region. M-KOPA, which means “borrow” in Swahili, was started by the founders of Kenya’s mobile money provider, M-Pesa. It offers an innovative pay-per-use model which allows customers to distribute payments for a three-light solar and radio/phone charging station over several months.

Customers can take home an M-KOPA solar system for a deposit of just US$35 and then continue to make 365 daily payments of 45 cents – less than the average daily spend on kerosene. All payments are made conveniently via SMS on existing mobile money networks. The US$35 deposit is fully refundable at any time during the payment period, and products come standard with a two-year warranty. After 365 daily payments are made, the device is unlocked with no further payments required.

By replacing a kerosene lamp with an M-KOPA financed product, a consumer can expect to save an entire year’s income within three years of owning the product. In addition to cost savings, households have increased safety from the elimination of accidental fires caused by kerosene lamps, better health due to lower levels of indoor air pollution, and other positive outcomes such as enabling children to study in the evening due to high quality lighting.

M-KOPA already provided affordable solar power to over 100 000 households by the end of September 2014, while adding 2 500 more every week.

M-KOPA’s goal is to reach one million households by 2018.

This is a great story with much relevance to South Africa where many households are still without access to safe and affordable electricity.

The countdown to Antarctica continues…


I’m excited about the race in Antarctica and the challenge of raising R250 000 for a Greenpeace Africa solar energy project, and encourage you to support my efforts and the work of Greenpeace Africa!

Please make a donation and encourage others to do the same.

“Together we can make a difference!”

Follow updates about my preparations for The Last Desert Race, and work with Greenpeace Africa, on Facebook and Twitter, my daily blog, and via Greenpeace Africa’s  various online platforms.

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