UAE off-grid solar start-up Pawame has raised $2 million in seed funding from Gulf-based investors to help grow its business in Kenya.
The social enterprise's funding round was led by CT Arabia, an investment firm created by regional energy executives to invest in Pawame, with other inputs from senior executives from Mena utility companies. These include Paddy Padmanathan, chief executive of Acwa Power, who made a personal investment.
“With a vision to provide electricity to some of the remotest off grid households in sub-Saharan Africa, Pawame offered me the ideal platform to do some good while preserving some of my personal savings,” said Mr Padmantathan.
Abu Dhabi-based Pawame (pronounced “power me”) supplies affordable solar kits to off-grid households in sub-Saharan Africa on a micro-finance basis.
The company was first launched in 2015 when chairman Alexandre Allegue, read a statistic stating that electricity was still out of reach for over 700 million people in Africa. He pledged to provide low-cost clean energy to 150 million low-income people living in remote areas, hiring his first employee in 2016 and selling the company's first solar home system a few months later.
“The funding raised will allow us to further accelerate our current growth momentum by expanding Pawame’s footprint in Kenya and other parts of Africa,” said Mr Allegue, adding that the investment will also help the company finance its inventory and meets its target to break even by the end of 2018.
“We have connected 4,000 homes to solar power in Kenya and have impacted more than 20,000 lives. Using our pay-as-you-go financing, we provide not only solar powered lights but also radio and TV.”
Philip Bahoshy, founder of the online start-up community Magnitt, said more start-ups in the region are now tackling innovation challenges in the solar and renewable energy space, with 30 listed on the Magnitt platform.
“This is the second largest investment in a solar focused startup in Mena with Enerwhere, a start-up tackling transportable solar hybrid solutions for commercial/ industrial scale applications having previously raised $11m,” said Mr Bahoshy.
“Notably Pawame is another example of a UAE start-up benefitting from the growing ecosystem and regional investors that is targeting the African market further cementing the UAE as a hub for startups beyond just the Mena region.”
Customers using Pawame’s services in Africa pay an upfront fee of $30 to activate the solar kit, followed by rent-to-own installments on a daily, weekly or basis for as little as 45 cents.
“This price is cheaper than their current alternative which is kerosene lighting and mobile charging. The total cost is about $250 for the customer, with a three-year warranty and a permanent customer service support,” said Mr Allegue, adding that Pawame will soon launch a new funding round with strategic investors to accelerate its growth.