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Energy Access: Nigeria’s rural dwellers have reasons to envy Mozambican villagers

Awadallah

Sept. 16, 2019

Mozambique has an ambitious target to reach every Mozambican with electricity, wherever they may be living within the borders of the Portuguese-speaking southern African country, a feat many Nigerian rural dwellers can only imagine.
Over 80 million Nigerians living in 8000 villages across the country lack access to electricity, the World Bank has said. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), a multinational professional services network with headquarters in London estimates that in Nigeria only one in five people have access to power from the electricity grid.  This leaves four in five people living in urban and rural communities to have to fend for themselves with makeshift and localized power solutions.
“It is critical that Nigerians take steps to understand and embrace the new starting points for energy provided by stand-alone renewable technology and mini-grids. We believe these solutions provide a viable, bottom-up solution to the patchy availability of electricity in Nigeria,” Pedro Omontuemhen, partner and lead, Power and Utilities said.
But Mozambique has taken the puzzle of energy access for its population head-on. It is achieving this through Fenix International, a subsidiary of ENGIE with operations in five countries including Uganda, Zambia, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, and Nigeria. The company has opened its sixth market in Mozambique where it expects to reach 200, 000 households with clean energy and inclusive financial services within three years.
Fenix has partnered with Vodacom and Vodafone M-Pesa SA to tackle the challenges of distribution, connectivity and mobile payments that have left rural Mozambicans underserved by affordable energy products in the past.
The next-generation energy company is launching off-grid solar in Mozambique in partnership with Vodacom, a telecommunication company. Launching sales in Mozambique is the latest step in Fenix’s expansion. Headquartered in Kampala, the company has already connected 500,000 customers to solar power in Uganda, Zambia, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, and Nigeria. Fenix has rapidly grown operations as a subsidiary of ENGIE, enabling the company to scale off-grid energy and financial services across new markets, with Mozambique the fourth new market opened within the past year.
“Mozambique has set an ambitious target with its ProEnergia initiative to reach 100 percent of the population with electricity by 2030. The country represents an optimal market for off-grid solar products, with only 27 percent of households currently connected to electricity and a highly distributed population,” Luke Hodgkinson, managing director of Fenix Mozambique said.
Fenix’s operations will focus on reaching those most in need of energy access, particularly districts in the North of the country and people who are using expensive, polluting, and dangerous methods such as kerosene and candles to light their homes.
By replacing fossil fuel-powered lanterns, solar home systems allow off-grid customers to illuminate their homes with clean LED lights, as well as charge phones and run radios, TVs, hair clippers and speakers.
Fenix’s latest product, Fenix Power is a GSM-enabled power system that enables the company to determine product usage and potential technical issues remotely, improving the customer experience. This is the first PAYGO solar company in Mozambique to use these Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to reduce costs and bring high-quality, affordable technology to rural, last-mile customers.
Gulamo Nabi, from Vodafone M-Pesa South Africa said they have been “working to unlock the potential of M-Pesa for the millions of Mozambicans in rural areas, far from the national grid or traditional financial services.”
Fenix is headquartered in Maputo but will operate in every province of Mozambique within the next three years. Whilst sales have already begun in the South Region, the next point of entry for investment will be in the province of Nampula before the end of the year. This decision is motivated by Fenix’s commitment to delivering its solution to households most in need and in the hardest to reach corners of rural Mozambique.
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