American multinational financial services corporation, Mastercard has entered a partnership with Kenyan pay-as-you-go solar provider M-KOPA, in efforts to expand its solar energy provisioning to homes and businesses across Africa.
The partnership, announced at this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) currently underway in Barcelona, will see M-KOPA pilot Mastercard's Quick Response (QR) payment technology (Masterpass QR) in Uganda to extend the reach of its pay-as-you-go solar program.
Mastercard says the open and interoperable technology will create a new payment channel for M-KOPA's pay-as-you-go customers outside for Kenya. "The network of mobile network operators and banks using the technology will help M-KOPA to scale and grow across Africa without requiring additional technology investments."
Kiki Del Valle, senior vice president, Commerce for Every Device, Mastercard said, "We want to make it easy for people to access reliable and regular sources of energy and become more economically resilient - earn a livelihood by working from home, keep shops and businesses open for longer and study after dark."
"We may take for granted our ability to produce light with the simple flick of a switch. But for many around the world, simple things like having electricity can be life changing."
Masterpass QR is currently available in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda
Nick Hughes, co-founder and chief product officer, M-KOPA Solar added, "We've proven that the pay-as-you-go solar model works in East Africa, but the off-grid market in Africa is tremendous. Our partnership with Mastercard provides the roadway for more solar services and infrastructure across the continent."
Following a successful pilot, Mastercard and M-KOPA plan to extend the program across East Africa. Mastercard will also work with mobile network operators to extend this model to other utilities like water and gas in developing markets across the world.
According to Mastercard, An estimated 16% of the world's population - 1.2 billion people - have little or no access to electricity. "In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 625 million people lack access to electricity, relying on bio and fossil fuels such as wood, charcoal and kerosene."
"Solar is an independent way for people to power homes and businesses but requires a large, one-time investment. With pay-as-you-go financing, M-KOPA customers purchase a solar home system on credit and make small daily payments using mobile money for less than what they previously spent on hazardous, kerosene lamps.
"Customers will now be able to make daily payments or top up the solar accounts easily by either scanning a Quick Response (QR) code from their smartphone or by entering the merchant ID associated with the QR code into their feature phone."
In October 2017, M-KOPA Solar raised US$80 million in committed financing to be used over the next three years to finance installations in one million homes, on top of the 500,000 already connected.
The funding came in part from Stanbic Bank, which committed US$9 million
At the time, the firm had connected over 500,000 homes in East Africa to affordable, safe and clean energy, with its predominantly low-income customer base accessing lighting, phone charging, radio and TV on daily mobile money payment plans.
The funding was reported to be the largest commercial debt facility to date in the PAYG off-grid energy sector.