BBOXX, a leading global off-grid solar company, successfully closed a $20 million Series C investment on 30 August. The company has pioneered a distributed energy platform, comprising data-driven technology and a unique solar home system design to deliver off-grid energy on a utility scale.
Since 2010, BBOXX has provided off-grid electricity to more than 350,000 people in 35 countries around the world. This latest round of investment is supported by co-investors MacKinnon, Bennett & Company (MKB), ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies and KawiSafi Ventures, as well as existing investors Khosla Impact Fund, Bamboo Finance and DOEN Foundation.
The investment will support an expanded presence in the company’s existing markets, Kenya and Rwanda, where BBOXX owns and operates retail distribution networks and after sales service centres to guarantee an excellent customer service experience for all users. BBOXX is currently building its operational headquarters in Kigali, Rwanda where the company has experienced swift growth.
By the end of this year it expects to be electrifying as many households as the Rwandan national grid. With the country’s ambitious goal of electrifying over 20% of the population with off-grid solar systems, BBOXX is well positioned to serve this quickly growing market.
The investment will also accelerate the provision of licensed BBOXX products and services in other markets, including the creation of three franchises in the West African countries of Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
“We are excited about the growth potential for the African off-grid solar market and delighted with BBOXX’s rapid development” said Laure Vincotte, Managing Director of ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies. “We feel that BBOXX’s technology is fully in line with ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies’ objectives of promoting sustainable and scalable energy solutions for all”.
“BBOXX is building the next generation of energy services – connected, distributed, renewable and focused on customer service. We see a strong opportunity for BBOXX’s licensed products and services to act as a foundation for a rapidly growing new sector in the global utility market” said Patrick Bennett, VP at MKB.
In addition, BBOXX is supported by KawiSafi Ventures, a $100 million private equity fund focused on the off-grid energy sector in East Africa. BBOXX will be the fund’s first investment.
This investment is not only good news for BBOXX Rwanda as the main beneficiary but also for all Rwandans without access to electricity “said Justus Mucyo, The Managing Director for BBOXX Rwanda.
We are proud to have the world’s largest utility ENGIE support us. It will help the business to grow across the country and put us in position to be the best off-grid solutions provider in the country. We should easily electrify 50,000 households over the next 12 months.
The New Times’ Minnie Karanja in an exclusive interview with Justus Mucyo, the Managing Director of BBOXX Rwanda found out more about what this new investment means for Rwanda and BBOXX’s venture into the Rwandan market.
Why has BBOXX chosen to invest in Rwanda?
Our Investors strongly believe that Rwanda can lead the world in off-grid electrification – both on technology and policy fronts. We are not only investing in resources to deploy solar home systems but also intend to use Rwanda as the center to manage BBOXX Operations on the African continent.
What does this investment mean to Rwandans?
So far BBOXX has already invested 5M USD in Rwandan market. 10M USD of this new investment will be used in the Rwandan business to expand our operations in the country. With this, Over 50,000 households will be electrified over the next 12 months and a further 100,000 before end of 2017.
We will also be opening more outlets country wide to add to our existing network of 20 retail outlets.
How is BBOXX playing a role in contributing towards meeting the Government’s target for country-wide electrification?
The Government of Rwanda through EDCL and the Ministry of Infrastructure intends to connect 500,000 households by 2017/18. We are working together with both EDCL and Ministry of Infrastructure to support the government’s vision. At BBOXX we are targeting to connect 40% of the households using BBOXX solar home systems.
Youth unemployment is a great challenge, how is BBOXX helping to address the problem of unemployment in Rwanda?
BBOXX has created employment through more than 200 jobs created in the past 2 years. BBOXX has also indirectly created employment for a further 300 people through our agency network. Over 90% of our workforce is made up of youth.
As we expand into the Rwandan market, we obviously expect to create more employment opportunities for the youth and women.
How sustainable is solar energy?
At BBOXX, we offer an on-grid experience in an off-grid setting. What this is means is that with our solar products you get similar or better services from what you get from on-grid connection.
You know, people are not very concerned about what’s on the roof, whether it’s a solar panel or a grid cable. They are more interested in what they use it for whether it is lighting, phone charging, TV, air conditioning, et cetera and how much it costs them. The challenge for solar energy companies is to prove that they can meet these specific needs. Otherwise solar energy is as good as any other source of electricity.
At present we have a lot of people in the city who are already connected to the grid contacting us because they want to be connected to solar power because of its various benefits. However, our main focus at the moment is rural electrification. Nevertheless, we are considering expanding into the urban areas and we are in the process of testing solar home systems suitable for modern urban settings.
What are the future plans?
BBOXX intends to be the leader in the Rwandan off-grid market by end of 2016. Our intention is to have presence in every District of Rwanda by the end of this year. We will ensure that Rwandans in every corner of the country can easily access our services. Our unique distribution model includes retail outlets in remote areas which helps us to get products closer to our customers. The reason it is unique is because it is different from other players in the market who use a centralized model to distribute solar systems to customers.