Solar Access could be the prepaid power solution we’ve all been waiting for

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

If you’re reading this from Zimbabwe, you’re probably as frustrated as all of us about the erratic supply of power within cities. Yours, ours, is the smaller problem. In the rural areas, most are completely off the grid completely and don’t have a ZESA to constantly vent their frustrations at on Twitter! A number of companies have launched to solve the problem, but a widely used solution locally is still not there, so getting a solar solution is a lot of work researching the optimum solution for your home and making expensive mistakes as a result.

Globally, one of those companies that’s solving the power problem is a UK based company called Azuri, whose solutions have been targeted at African countries. This week, the company signed a deal with a local distributor called TeleAccess, and the solution is called Solar Access.Their product was born out of research at the Cambridge University, and is called Indigo PayGo solar home system.

It works exactly as the Econet product called Home Power Station, which was introduced back in 2012, but is somehow still not visible at all on the market. One gets the solar system installed at their home for free and then they start buying power via a mobile network’s mobile money solution, or good old recharge cards on the street.

The whole concept of paying for solar power only a bit a time is meant to help those that can’t buy the system at one go. After 24 months, the unit is fully paid and one can unlock it and use the sun free. Brilliant model! For those thinking maybe the unit would have reached end-of-life anyway after 2 years, the specs we’re reading say the solar panel has 25 year design life and the batteries 6-7 years.

Here’s a video explaining how it works in a country where the Indigo PayGo solution has been implemented:

In short, Solar Access is just like ZESA, except when you pay for the prepaid power, you get it! We’re assuming ZESA themselves will love this as it means more power available to the heavy stuff that solar can’t carry, like manufacturing. So hopefully Solar Access’s success will translate into less loadshedding.

In terms of timelines, for those keen to rush and get this right now, the target by Solar Access is to get this into some 250,000 homes within the next 12 months. Very ambitious, especially, and TeleAccess has bitten us once already with unfulfilled rollout timelines. But experience is a great teacher so maybe this time execution will be flawless!

So far, Azuri’s solution has been deployed in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, South Sudan, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda and other countries in Sub Saharan Africa.


  1. Itai SolarSky

    This is a very weak attempt at approaching the off-grid market. For a start consumers are totally resistant to the idea of paying $20 and about $10 every month for 24 months. Solar lights on the market range from $10 to $35 as such the product has no value to consumers.

    Users will also by-pass the recharging gadget after paying the initial amount. This product has been on trial mode for too long and it appears it just won’t fly.

  2. appBendr

    So in summary, this is buying a Solar System on Loan, and paying the installments using EcoCash 🙂

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      Pretty much.
      I think the brilliance is in them assembling the right components (battery, the light, chargers, panels) so that consumers don’t have to do this themselves and make expensive mistakes.

  3. painrude

    Can we at least get how much the monthly charges are. Probably comparing with how much the countries that already have the service are paying e.g @Techzim

  4. themba

    How best can I get this solar power, it sound good.

  5. fourwallsinaroom

    The equipment is paid over a two year period? Great! But in certain cases / areas power goes at most 10 hours every 90 days.!! Does this means even when I am not using the system I am recharging?

    How big is this unit? Are we talking fridges, microwaves, laser printers, desktop and dstv in the mix or is this a small system designed for just lights? The website seems to indicate just two types of lights.

    Good innovation, but seeing as I applied for Tele Access when dial up was the in thing and ADSL was a dream in Zimbabwe and ZOL was still Data Control…I have my doubts about if they will come to town, and do anything reasonable!

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      Designed for just lights small items like phones and stuff. I think you can get the capacity you want from them but from what i read, they focused a lot on solving the basic problem of lighting especially for folks off the grid. The town guys can take a rest from WiFi & laptop work and maybe read a book under the solar lights. Or just talk to family 😉

      On the 2 years that’s an approximate based on not having any lighting at all. If this is backup, it’ll be longer for you. just paying for the unit upfront still an option.

      All from just what I read and not Solar Access terms. may be different

  6. joey k

    These systems are good for rural Africa where for 20 bucks a month you get decent lighting at a price cheaper than the cost of kerosene per month for lamps plus added bonus of charging your phone and clean lighting no fire risks and dangerous fumes. However at 120 lumens the light is not so good for your average living room purpose in an average home in towns.

  7. Isaac Nyoni

    I think paying $20 a month for this system is a rip off considering other solutions on the market. This system is just for lighting only i.e four lights at most. Considering the cost of solar lamps there is just no way that this is set to change my life.

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