The Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa teams up with female and productive-use-of-energy entrepreneurs to expand its portfolio in Zambia

The Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa (BGFA) has signed two new agreements with energy service companies in Zambia to support the expansion and scale-up of off-grid stand-alone solar home systems to some 192,000 people and up to 50,000 smallholder farmers.

The new agreements have been signed with WidEnergy Africa Limited and Solar Village Zambia Limited. The total results-based financing for the two projects is EUR 4.1 million, with an additional EUR 6.5 million in other financing expected to be leveraged. In total, these new investees aim to provide approx. 192,000 people, as well as 50,000 smallholder farmers, with access to modern, clean and affordable energy in rural and peri-urban areas in the country. These are the first projects being fully financed by Norway.

BGFA supporting female entrepreneurs

WidEnergy Africa – which stands for Women’s Initiative for Delivering clean Energy to Africa – is a female-led company, incorporated in 2016 in Lusaka, Zambia, committed to empowering African women by supporting their access to clean energy. Their main line of business is the distribution of stand-alone solar home systems.

WidEnergy has sought BGFA funding to scale up its existing business operations by selling and establishing up to 37,000 new high-quality, clean and affordable solar home systems to customers living in rural and peri-urban areas of Zambia during 2023-2027. Beyond supplying affordable solar products, WidEnergy provides training and jobs as door-to-door sales agents to women and girls, providing sustainable employment and earning opportunities to counteract the negative consequences of extreme poverty.

“We envision a world in which every African woman and girl has access to clean, affordable and sustainable energy. With the support of BGFA, WidEnergy will accelerate its mission to deliver this vision and create a lasting impact on health, education and household income. The partnership with BGFA will provide the catalytic funding needed to scale our business faster, access more remote territories and reach even the most underserved customers. Together, we will empower African women and girls with the transformative power of clean energy,” says Liliane Munezero Ndabaneze, CEO at WidEnergy.

“We are very excited to start our cooperation with WidEnergy. Like many locally managed businesses, WidEnergy has experienced limited growth over the last few years as it has been difficult to attract international capital at affordable rates. With both BGFA results-based financing and the expected co-financing, we hope that WidEnergy will be able to scale its business faster to reach more remote territories and service poorer customers that may otherwise have been ignored,” comments Aliona Fomenco, Investment Manager at Nefco.

Innovative off-grid solar energy products to increase smallholder farmers’ yields

Solar Village Zambia aims to provide access to affordable energy for customers in rural areas that they can use for productive purposes, in particular more efficient farming. The parent company is the Norwegian company Solar Village As, which was established in 2013 with the mission of improving African smallholder farmers’ yields and quality of life. Since 2016, the company has developed, manufactured and distributed solar battery sticks to agribusinesses in Zambia and several other African markets, including Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Senegal.

Solar Village is seeking BGFA funding to scale up its existing business by selling 50,000 solar-powered battery sticks to smallholder farmers to power sprayers that are used for weed, pest and plant disease management, as well as to provide crop nutrition. In addition to powering the sprayers, the battery sticks can be used for lighting, charging phones and running other appliances. The business model builds on partnerships with large agribusinesses that provide national farmer outgrower schemes. Solar Village will utilise these channels to deliver its product to rural farmers living in remote areas through a highly cost-effective and scalable Pay-As-You-Go approach.

“We are excited to have secured this funding from BGFA, which will serve as a springboard for us to roll out our popular solar farming solution in Zambia at scale. Together with our partners Alliance Ginneries, Good Nature Agro and Micron Sprayers, we will be supporting smallholder farmers within their crop value chains to reduce crop losses, maximise yields and increase incomes,” says Peter Legat, CEO at Solar Village.

“The BGFA financing will be paid to Solar Village in accordance with achieved sales results, but the ultimate beneficiaries will be low-income customers and farmers living in the targeted remote areas of Zambia, who will be able to purchase the battery sticks from Solar Village at a lower price, subsidised by BGFA,” comments Tina Möller, Programme Manager at Nefco.

The Beyond the Grid Fund for Africa has so far contracted 21 companies, of which 9 are based in Zambia. Cumulatively, these have the potential to reach over 8 million people. Further projects are currently under evaluation with due diligence ongoing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. A relaunch of the funding round in Mozambique will open soon for experienced applicants deploying and operating mini-grids.

For further information, please contact:

WidEnergy Africa Limited: Aliona Fomenco, Investment Manager at Nefco, +358 10 6180 647

Solar Village Zambia: Tina Möller, Programme Manager at Nefco, +358 10 6180 651

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 smallholder farmer in Zambia using a solar-powered battery stick to give nutrition to his crops – Solar Village Zambia Limited.

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