The BUILD Fund makes inaugural investment in East African off-grid solar energy solutions distributor
The BUILD Fund (BUILD), an impact fund created in partnership between Bamboo Capital Partners (Bamboo) and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), has made its inaugural investment, providing a USD500,000 working capital facility for Mwezi, a Kenyan distributor of solar products.
Mwezi is a last-mile solar energy solutions distributor targeting rural Kenya. The company provides high-quality solar-powered, Lighting Global accredited products. Mwezi offers customers access to these products through a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) solution to address the financing barriers that have historically held back low-income households in rural sub-Saharan Africa from affording clean energy.
Mwezi sells and distributes products such as PAYG solar systems, solar lamps, solar fishing lights, energy efficient cookstoves, and solar-powered TVs, radios and torches. The company is product agnostic and offers products provided by leading suppliers such as Greenlight Planet, BioLite and Rural Spark.
Through the distribution of clean energy products, Mwezi provides rural households with access to electricity to replace the use of kerosene for cooking and lighting. Kerosene is an expensive and dangerous source of energy – continued usage leads to serious health implications and a significant negative environmental impact. The poorest African households spend approximately 10-25 per cent of their monthly household income on kerosene.
Mwezi specifically targets low-income households. Nearly half (48 per cent) of the company’s customers live below GBP3.20 per day, while four in five (79 per cent) are accessing the products it distributes for the first time. The PAYG products are sold on credit, with payment plans lasting from 273 days to 567 days, depending on the product features and pricing.
Mwezi will use the investment from BUILD to drive its expansion into solar productive products and solar agri-business products in Kenya and neighbouring LDCs including Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda. The ‘next wave’ of solar products will allow customers to benefit from egg incubators, solar biodigesters, solar drip irrigation systems and solar maize mills, which – depending on the technology – will be sold with PAYG modality or on a cash basis.
Jean-Philippe de Schrevel, Founder and Managing Partner at Bamboo Capital Partners, says: “Mwezi showcases how innovative financing solutions can make a real difference to improve access to energy for rural, off-grid communities, while simultaneously creating economic opportunities and reducing environmental damage. We are delighted that BUILD has the opportunity to play a fundamental role in scaling Mwezi and fueling its expansion plans to help the company reach more people and have an even greater impact on life in rural Africa.”
“The BUILD Fund is proving that with the right innovative blended finance vehicle, and partnerships that provide access to pipeline, concessional and commercial capital can flow to SDG-positive businesses in last mile settings—precisely the demonstration that is needed in the Decade of Action for Implementation of the SDGs,” says Preeti Sinha, Executive Secretary of UNCDF, which partnered with Bamboo Capital Partners – the fund manager for the BUILD Fund. “This inaugural investment of a fund that is primarily focused on the LDCs, with a transaction sourced & screened by UNCDF, is a tremendous achievement for UNCDF, the SDGs, and last mile finance.”
BUILD is an innovative impact finance vehicle designed to bring “missing middle” finance to small-and-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that have the potential for strong development impact in the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Managed by Bamboo, BUILD provides growth capital to businesses identified, supported and nurtured by the UNCDF.