New portfolio company in Uganda targets refugee communities, businesses and farmers

The Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa’s new investee POPO is accelerating access to electricity in remote areas in northern Uganda with its solar-powered battery rental services.

The Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa (BGFA) has signed an agreement with POPO Universal Energy Limited to scale up its solar-powered battery rental services in northern Uganda. In addition to the results-based financing to be provided by BGFA, the project will be co-funded by the Uganda Development Bank (UDB). The project is expected to provide more than 82,800 people with access to electricity by the end of 2027.

POPO is renting solar-charged portable battery systems to customers in remote areas in the West Nile region, with a focus on electrifying off-grid refugee areas and peri-urban communities. The company is distributing its services mainly through field agents. Recharging of the smart POPO battery packs is done through its so-called Community Solar Hubs, centrally located solar-powered charging stations. These can be installed in connection to health centres, for example at refugee camps, schools, churches or other public spaces. With the BGFA funding, POPO will scale up its business activities and expand to remote areas of northern Uganda across eight regions. The aim is to install 285 new Community Solar Hubs and provide and service up to some 15,600 energy service subscriptions by the end of 2027. The scale-up activities will also create significant new employment opportunities by recruiting both in-house staff and hundreds of new field agents.

“This tripartite partnership between Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa, POPO and Uganda Development Bank will not only enable us to achieve our vision for a sustainable social impact but also support us to scale up our business activities. Solar power solutions have existed for decades but until recently were unaffordable, difficult to access, unportable and lacking applications for productive use. Our technology partner Mobile Power and the funding support from BGFA and UDB will enable us to address all these challenges in Uganda and to achieve scale and unlock community potential by providing portable, clean, affordable and accessible green power,” says Jimmy Adiga, Co-founder and CEO of POPO Universal Energy.

POPO battery customer in Uganda – POPO
POPO battery customer in Uganda – POPO

The company’s products are designed and developed by Mobile Power, a company financed by BGFA to scale up its activities in Liberia. The main components are the Community Solar Hubs and Mopo batteries, which are available for both household and commercial use, such as for small businesses and farmers. The batteries can be used to meet the basic needs of households or micro businesses, including lightning, powering small appliances such as mobile phones, and enabling e-health and e-learning. The payment model is based on a fixed price structure through a ‘Pay-Per-Use’ model, allowing customers to benefit from rented batteries as and when they need them.

“By installing battery rental charging stations at central and publicly accessible locations, the potential for greater reach is evident. It is very inspiring to see how POPO has managed to bring electricity to remote areas, particularly healthcare centres in refugee camps to power critical medical equipment,” comments Tina Möller, Programme Manager at Nefco.

The Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa has so far contracted 23 companies in Burkina Faso, DRC, Liberia, Uganda and Zambia. Cumulatively, these have the potential to reach over 8.5 million people. The BGFA funding window in Uganda is funded by Denmark and Sweden. Further projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Zambia are expected to be announced during autumn 2023.

For further information, please contact:

Tina Möller, Programme Manager at Nefco, +358 10 6180 651

Nico Francou, Chief Operations Officer at POPO, +256 708 38 44 62 /+32 484 08 00 01

About POPO

POPO is bringing clean solar power to off-grid and peri-urban areas in Uganda using smart portable batteries through a ‘Pay-Per-Use’ model. This low cost and flexible access to electricity through secure battery rental requires no deposit, no credit checks, no collateral and no fixed payment structure. POPO aims to serve millions of Ugandans at the bottom of the economic pyramid with affordable, mobile and clean energy solutions, meeting their basic daily need for electricity access.

About BGFA

The Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa (BGFA) is a multi-donor facility established and managed by Nefco – the Nordic Green Bank. Nefco is an international financial institution based in Helsinki, Finland, focusing on environmental and climate investments and fund management. BGFA is implemented by Nefco with the support of two project implementation partners. NIRAS is a development and engineering consultancy company headquartered in Denmark. The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), an international multilateral partnership based in Vienna, Austria, works to accelerate market-based deployment of renewable energy and energy-efficiency solutions in developing countries.

The current EUR 126 million BGFA programme was established in 2019 on Sweden’s initiative through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). It has since been developed by Nefco into a multi-donor programme funded by Denmark through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Germany through its development bank KfW, Norway through the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation Norad and Sweden. Power Africa, an initiative administered by USAID, is providing an in-kind technical assistance contribution.

Photo: A mother can now get a critical health examination for her child in a refugee camp thanks to a POPO solar lighting solution – POPO

Subscribe to our newsletter

Our digital newsletter is being published 4-6 times a year. To stay updated on our projects and activities, sign up here.