Tapping into Tanzania’s solar power potential

Dec 6, 2017

The energy supply in Africa leaves much to be desired. Roughly 20 percent of the Tanzanian population has no access to the power grid.

The potential of solar power in Africa is largely untapped. Enlarge image The potential of solar power in Africa is largely untapped. (© developpp.de) The high levels of sunlight on the continent offer enormous potential for generating solar energy, but investors have so far been reticent.

Many of them are put off by the high capital investment needed, and there is also a lack of specialist knowledge in the solar energy sector.

Consequently, low-income households often meet their energy needs from fossil fuels such as kerosene, which are hazardous to the environment and human health and expensive.

Rural areas in particular are often connected to the energy grid for just a few hours a day, if at all.

The potential of solar power in Africa is largely untapped, something that Berlin-based start-up Mobisol wants to change.

Mobisol’s mobile systems provide the most socially deprived groups with the access to electricity that is essential for long-term development –without harming the environment or people’s health.

It has specialised in solar home systems – small solar power units that generate enough electricity to light several rooms, charge mobile phones and run electrical appliances This hairdresser can now use solar power to charge his clippers. Enlarge image This hairdresser can now use solar power to charge his clippers. (© develoPPP.de )

Working on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), DEG - Deutsche Investiions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH provided Mobisol with develoPPP.de funding and support.

“Over the next few years, we aim to supply millions of homes in developing countries with clean energy,” says Mobisol’s founder Thomas Gottschalk.

The unpredictable nature of Tanzania’s energy supply makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to do business there.

Nevertheless, Saria N. Nnko took the leap into self-employment, opening a hairdressing salon in the village and benefiting in the process from the develoPPP.de project. 

“Thanks to solar energy, I can now run my own business. I use my salon to offer hairdressing and charge mobile phones,” says Nnko.

The key feature of the Berlin-based energy start-up’s business model is a micro-financed payment system "Thanks to solar energy, I can now run my own business," says haidressing business owner Saria N. Nnko. Enlarge image "Thanks to solar energy, I can now run my own business," says haidressing business owner Saria N. Nnko. (© develoPPP.de )

Most money transfers in Tanzania take place via mobile phone, so Mobisol uses a mobile phone-based system of payment by instalments. The solar modules are available in 80-, 120- and 200-watt versions and cost between 320 Euro and 1,300 Euro, depending on output.

On average, customers pay the equivalent of around 20 Euro per month for a module, with instalment payments based on the household’s previous energy expenditure. After three years, the consumers then own the system.

The solar home systems allow the power supply to be scaled up quickly and cost-effectively in rural regions without having to rely on an expensive and labour-intensive expansion of the network and a monopolist operator.

And having an electricity supply can also give rise to new regional economic cycles, creating further jobs.

© GIC Africa

Solar for Tanzania's entrepreneurs

The German company Mobisol produces solar panels for rural Africa

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