Portfolio Learning

Ethiopia says HelloSolar

Ethiopia is the world’s third largest potential market for solar products but also one of the most challenging.

PAYGO solar product providers have traditionally found it difficult to penetrate the 60 million people off-grid population lacking access to energy due to several factors:

  • A complex regulatory environment
  • low mobile money penetration (one of the lowest in Africa)
  • Low population density, particularly in the lowlands where 1/3 of the population reside

Shell Foundation, with co-funding from DFID and USAID, worked with Belcash, the leading mobile money provider in Ethiopia, to accelerate the availability of PAYGO energy solutions in the country, co-creating a new enterprise called HelloSolar.

HelloSolar has looked to leverage BelCash’s agent network, brand presence and MFI partnerships to scale the sales and distribution of affordable and high-quality PAYGO solar home systems in two regions.

They concentrated efforts on informing the customers of the products and the after-sales requirements around installation, payments and maintenance.

“We noticed that while customers knew of the potential of solar energy very few knew how to operate a system in a sustainable and efficient manner. Thus, very simple and clear instructions (e.g. proper cabling) were given to customers in their local language to ensure proper usage.”

This early pilot report shows positive results of providing tailored payment plans and using an agent-led sales model, with 82% satisfaction levels among their new customers.

Download the full report [1mb]

The next stage of funding will look expand operations from two regions into five, and continue to grow their sales until end of 2020.