Azuri, a start-up that sells solar energy to customers off the grid, offers a pay-as-you-go solar charger kit, which promises reliable, clean, safe and much cheaper way to provide energy to people in remote areas of the world.
In such places, especially Africa, people not only have to pay extraordinary prices to have a light at night, but they also use kerosene, which is one of the major contributors to lung cancer development and death.
Families in rural areas of Africa often face the problem of not having access to electricity. Consequently, when there is no electricity provided by the grid, the easiest solution is usually kerosene fuel, despite the numerous warnings about its impact on human health. Ironically, kerosene lighting also comes at a price, which is 800 times higher than what we pay in the U.S. and Europe for power provided by a utility company. Recently, the International Finance Corporation estimated that around 30% of the income of an average family in sub-Saharan Africa is spent on kerosene, and even more on mobile phone credit.
The guys at Azuri took this issue quite seriously and decided to look for ways to reduce the price of electricity in these regions and at the same time provide them with a much safer alternative. They came up with the Indigo Pay-as-you-go model for solar kits, which allows the families to prepay for electricity and use it whenever needed. Each customer is provided with a kit that includes two to five watt solar panel with a control unit, which directs power either to LED lights or a mobile phone charger. Unlike any other existing solar power kits, this one can be obtained for an upfront payment of only $10.
Azuri already has more than 20,000 customers in 10 African countries, which places them right after another start-up, Angaza Design, which provides pay-as-you-go service for mobile phone charging for just over 30,000 people across Africa.
In general, the companies are facing one common problem, that of a limited working capital, and therefore constraints in the flow of cash. But the model is proving successful in all countries where it has been applied. While the westernized world is debating when solar will finally have a good share in the grid, in Africa it is already the cheapest, safest and most practical option.