Zambian Off-Grid Solar Market Expanding Rapidly with Help from Global Utility

On Thursday, pay-go energy company Fenix International, part of global utility ENGIE, said that it has electrified 30,000 Zambian households 9 months after expanding into the country by leveraging its partnership with telecom MTN. This rate of growth exceeds the company’s initial expectations and outpaces the industry average, according to the company.

Approximately 12 million Zambians live without access to the electrical grid, representing 75 percent of the total population, according to data from the World Bank. In rural areas, the number rises to 95 percent of households without access to the grid, with people living off-grid primarily relying on candles, kerosene, and batteries. 

Fenix’s lease-to-own solar home systems bring phone charging, satellite TV, lights and more to these households and the company says that it is able to match systems to existing energy budgets.

After establishing a strong base in Uganda, Fenix expanded to Zambia in partnership with MTN Zambia, part of Africa’s largest telecom. Fenix customers use MTN Mobile Money to finance solar systems and MTN’s brand and distribution network helped Fenix to quickly scale across the country. 

Related: Putting Solar+Storage to Work for Africa’s Farmers

John Foye, Managing Director of Fenix International Zambia, said that “everyone on our high-performing team is excited to get out of bed in the morning to achieve our mission. Thanks to their passion, we have seen incredible growth in Zambia. That said, there is still a long way to go. We will keep working to chase the darkness away across Zambia, with our customers at the centre of everything we do.”

To date, Fenix has sold over 250,000 ReadyPay Power systems and has a growing product portfolio and geographic reach, with the aim to bring power and a wider world of financing to millions of customers by 2020.

Fenix is now part of ENGIE, the multinational utility, the first Solar Home System (SHS) firm to join a major worldwide energy company.

More on Zambia’s Energy Infrastructure:  Sub-Saharan Africa Looking for New Mechanisms to Boost Solar Investments

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Jennifer Runyon
Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. You can reach her at Today, in addition to managing content on Renewable Energy World and POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference and expo for the transmission and distribution industry. In her role, she works in close cooperation with a large team of committed industry executives to shape the educational content for the event. She also helps assemble the renewable energy content for POWERGEN and helped launch the first Grid-Scale Storage Summit, a co-located event at HYDROVISION International. She has traveled to Germany to see onshore and offshore wind installations; Iceland to see geothermal energy in action; and France to see cutting-edge smart grids. In the U.S. she has visited and reported about bioenergy power plants in Florida, both large-scale and small-scale hydropower; and multiple wind farms, solar PV, and CSP installations. Formerly, she was the managing editor of Innovate Forum, an online publication that focused on innovation in manufacturing. Prior to that she was the managing editor at Desktop Engineering magazine. In 2008, she won an "Eddy Award" for her editing work on an article about solar trees in Vienna. In 2010, was awarded an American Business Media Neal Award for its eNewsletters, which were created under her direction. She holds a Master's Degree in English Education from Boston University and a BA in English from the University of Virginia.

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