According to a 2014 survey, an average off-grid household in Kenya spends about 75¢ a day on energy, or $272 a year—$164 on kerosene, $36 on charging their mobile phone, and $72 on batteries. M-Kopa estimates a customer saves about $750 over the first four years by switching to its basic solar kit. How do they manage all that “Our loan officer is that SIM card in the device that can shut it off remotely”.
Kopa means “to borrow” in Swahili, and each system the company sells is in effect a loan of about $165. Clients pay $35 upfront and agree to make a daily payment of 45¢ for a year, after which the system is theirs. The kits come with a control box containing the battery and a SIM card that can communicate with M-Kopa headquarters in Nairobi. When a customer has made a payment via mobile phone, the SIM card sends a signal to activate the battery, which is powered by the panels. “If you boil it down, what we are is a finance company,” says Nick Hughes, M-Kopa’s strategy director and one of its founders. “What we’ve done is to give the customers some collateral and a line of credit.”