M-Kopa Solar Raises $19 Million In Private Equity Investment

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

M-Kopa Solar, a social-enterprise startup that uses solar to reach remote off-grid consumers in East Africa with cheap electricity, has raised $19 million financing from consortium of private equity investors.

The US-based startup, which sells credit-based solar lamps that are topped up via mobile money service to homes in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, said it will use the investment to expand the company’s team, product range and operations into other countries in Africa.

The financing round was led by Generation Investment Management that was founded by former US Vice President al Gore and backed by Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson and Steve Case founder of AOL. Other existing M-Kopa shareholders also reinvested.

“We’re very pleased to have the world’s leading sustainability investors and entrepreneurs backing us at M-Kopa,” Jesse Moore, M-Kopa’s chief executive and co-Founder, said in a statement.

“We’re proving that solar power for the off-grid world will be transformative for customers good for the planet and profitable for investors.”

In its first three years M-Kopa reached more than 20,000 homes. The firms said the latest financing round will help it reach up to one million homes in East Africa by 2017.

It has over 2,000 full-time staff and sales agents in the region.

Over 80 percent of households in sub-Saharan Africa are not connected to the national electric grid that’s monopolized by inefficient state-run power companies.

Africa’s off-grid revolution has attracted companies, both local and foreign, with initiatives such as ‘Power Africa’ by President Obama and ‘Lighting Africa’ by Senegalese-American R&B music singer and songwriter Akon, jumping on to the bandwagon.

SkyPower, the world’s largest developer and owner of utility-scale solar projects, plans to donate two million free home solar kits in Kenya.

“They are making solar-powered appliances affordable for a huge new market, and this brings clear climate advantages and financial savings for low-income customers,” Colin le Duc, a founding partner at Generation Investment Management, said.