energy access solar lamp Lake Victoria Kenya
Lake Victoria, Kenya. Image: Jose Antonio San Millan Cobo, 123RF.com

The BUILD Fund has made its inaugural investment, setting up a $500,000 working capital facility for Kenyan distributor of solar products, Mwezi, which concentrates on last mile energy access measures.

An impact fund created in partnership between Bamboo Capital Partners and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) , the BUILD Fund is an impact finance vehicle designed to bring “missing middle” finance to small and medium-sized businesses that have the potential for a strong impact on the world’s least developed countries.  

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 historically holds 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.

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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. Continuing use of expensive kerosene across Africa leads to serious health implications and a significant negative environmental impact. The poorest African households spend approximately 10-25% of their monthly household income on kerosene.

Mwezi specifically targets low-income households. Nearly half (48%) of the company’s customers live below $4.44 a day, while four in five (79%) are accessing the products 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.

Looking beyond access to energy for only lighting

The Kenyan company will use the investment from BUILD to drive its expansion into solar productive products and solar agri-business products in Kenya and neighbours, including Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda. This 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, Bamboo Capital Partners founder and managing partner said Mwezi showcases how innovative financing solutions can make a real difference to improve energy access 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.”

Preeti Sinha, UNCDF executive secretary called this inaugural investment of the fund a tremendous achievement for the least developed countries market, as it concentrates on last mile finance.

“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,” said Sinha.