Mobile solar power: a growing business model in Rwanda

Most developing countries lack enough power supply in rural areas for even basic appliances like lighting, phone chargers, TV, radio, etc. Lately, many African countries have discovered the potential that they have by being positioned in a great sunny region.  Governments are now capitalizing on the development of renewable energy projects, and the private sector has realized the latent business opportunities to make a positive impact to different communities. The government of Rwanda (GoR) has invested in solar power projects to help communities living in remote areas to access power. The GoR has established smooth policies to assist investors by establishing financial incentives such as advantageous tax policies to help investors expand on a large scale in rural areas.

Mobisol, a German-based company, provides innovative solar power systems that are affordable to low-income people. Mobisol started its operations in Rwanda in January 2014 as a pilot project in the Eastern province, Bugesera district, and was later transformed into a realistic business in April, 2014 with a branch in Tanzania as well.

What does a Mobisol solar power system include?

The Mobisol Mobile solar power systems’ capacity is between 100 Wp to 200 Wp (watt-peak), and is offered with other accessories, including a  mobile charger, TV, radio, converter, battery and chargeable bulbs. A 100 Wp solar panel system is provided with the accessories and it has the capacity to use 9 bulbs.  A 200 Wp  version has the same accessories  with the capacity to use 26 bulbs at the same time.

Mobisol has partnered with one of the biggest telecom companies in Rwanda, MTN to facilitate monthly payments by consumers through mobile money.  This reduces the travelling costs to reach Mobisol agencies and encourages the population to use cashless payment methods. If a customer wants to acquire the solar power system, Mobisol offers an installment payment plan to buy the system within three years and help the low-income people who cannot afford to buy the system outright.   Customers are also offered a 25% discount when they pay the whole amount immediately, which rewards saving money.

Mobisol solar power system user (Image:Mobisol)

Mobisol solar power systems impact

Mobisol has covered 20 out of 30 districts in Rwanda, the most interesting achievement is based on 6,000 homes using Mobisol solar power systems within one year, and 20,000 solar power systems in all of East Africa (Rwanda and Tanzania). Most of them are home-based systems, but some of them have taken advantages of the system to run small businesses by charging a small amount of money for charging mobile phones, renting rechargeable bulbs, thereby generating additional income to meet short term needs. The whole Mobisol solar power system is unlikely to be stolen due to a remote tracking system that allows them to be remotely stopped in case of theft. 

Solar energy is taking over step by step in rural areas, it's cost-effective and provides a clean energy that can be reliable, and it’s becoming a faster way to meet basic energy needs in most rural areas .The solar energy could be a great environmental-friendly source of energy and replace the traditional kerosene lights that emit more CO2- this dirty lighting is damaging the lives of many African low-income people, and contributes to air pollution.

To date, solar power contributes as a supplementary energy source in Africa’s diverse energy sources, and the increase in solar power use is becoming a great model for many African countries to move to renewable energy technologies, and is a promising future sector for rural areas to start small businesses and earn additional income.


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