Investec bets on solar in East Africa

Investec bets on solar in East Africa

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The supply of off-grid solar power to homes in Africa has received a significant shot in the arm with the announcement that South African asset managers Investec invested in Mobisol, a large solar power provider in West Africa.

Investec made the acquisition through its African private equity capability and will see the asset management service, headquartered in Cape Town, partner with Berlin-based Mobisol. Mobisol is well-established in Tanzania and Rwanda and is in the process of entering the Kenyan market.

Mobisol says in a media release “the deal will see Investec Asset Management partner with Mobisol, existing shareholders and DEG (Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbh) to accelerate the company’s growth in its existing markets and to support its expansion into new markets in Africa”.

Mobisol, who has installed around 60,000 solar home systems in Tanzania and Rwanda in the past three years, provides a solar power package to low-income African households. The company claims the power is of “high-quality… clean, safe and (an) affordable alternative to fossil fuels”.

The company says Mobisol systems are designed specifically for the African market and are powerful enough to meet the energy needs of a typical off-grid African household. It is able to power lighting, radios and stereos, mobile phone charging, TVs, and other appliances such as irons, fridges and ventilators. The installations are said to “drive rural development and create jobs in East Africa, stimulating economic and social development, particularly for women, while simultaneously contributing to global environmental protection”.

Households who acquire the system needs to pay it off in three years through instalments. Entry-level systems costs – on a daily basis – almost the same as the typical customer would spend on kerosene, candles, batteries and mobile phone charging. Many customers generate an income from their Mobisol system as they prove a mobile phone charging service or run services such as barber shops.

Investec Asset Management established an African private equity capability in 2008. The asset managers say their private equity strategy focuses on growth capital and buyout investments in established mid-market and larger companies in Africa, “with the objective of supporting the creation of local or regional champions in their respective industries”.