Rural households and businesses in East Africa are now able to buy electricity remotely courtesy of the advancing mobile money technology.
People in the region no longer have to travel long distances to the city to pay their utility bills because they can do so on their mobile phones using the various mobile money transfer platforms available, including M-Pesa in Kenya and Tigo Pesa in Tanzania.
This technology has also enabled electricity companies in the region to develop smart prepaid meters that allow customers to purchase electricity in the form of units through their mobile phones.
Additionally, it has eliminated fraud and corruption in the distribution of electricity because customers are required to pay directly to their providers without having to deal with fraudsters masquerading as company employees.
Saving Time and Money
Previously, people had to stand in long queues for hours just to buy electricity coupons at the company offices that are mainly found in major cities and towns.
Those who have already adopted the digital payment method say it’s fast, easy to use, efficient, and saves them a lot time and money.
Property owners are also having an easy time dealing with electricity providers since each tenant has their own prepaid power meter that they top up using their preferred mobile money transfer platform.
Studies have shown that African countries are slowly embracing new technologies such as digital payments, which have created new business opportunities, transparency and improved cash flow for utilities and off-grid operators.
Lighting Up East Africa
The new technology has enabled new players, especially those dealing in renewable energy, to succeed in the lucrative industry by targeting customers in areas that are not connected to the national grid.
In East Africa, pay-as-you-go solar operators have so far financed the sale of more than 800,000 units of solar home systems. Experts have estimated that more than 75 million people in rural Africa will be using digital payment-enabled solar units by 2020.
In Kenya, M-Kopa Solar, a solar power company, has connected more than half a million homes to affordable solar power since its inception six years ago. The company connects 500 homes every day, allowing rural households to save millions of shillings on electricity every year.
More growth in the energy sector is highly anticipated in the coming years as Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda join hands to launch an ambitious project that includes the development of mini-grids across the region to power rural communities away from the main national grids.