EDF buys minority stake in off-grid specialist Bboxx’s Kenyan business

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Image: Bboxx Kenya

Global energy giant EDF has bought a 23% stake in off-grid solar company Bboxx’s Kenyan business.

Bboxx, which specialises in building, financing and operating off-grid solar installations in the African market, is partnering with EDF to expand its footprint in Kenya by capitalising on the energy group’s commercial resources and financial clout. Kenya is already Bboxx’s largest market, according to the company, and has been operating there since 2011.

Bboxx’s solar systems are eligible for mobile, pay-as-you-go payments, and they allow customers to power domestic appliances, such as TVs, radios, fans and mobile telephone chargers.

The company said in a statement that Kenya poses a “major growth opportunity”, owing to a shift in government policy towards creating more decentralised systems that power rural communities without access to the grid.

Anshul Patel, director of global partnerships at Bboxx, told attendees of the Global Energy Summit this week that “obviously the grid didn’t exist in these areas, and the grid in the case of many African countries, many Asian countries is not going to economically exist in these areas for a long time to come.”

“What you’ve seen over the last 10 years or so is a huge shift from having this pro grid extension policy to say we actually need many grids and smaller solutions that actually address a community problem. At the same time, we need to recognise that solar home systems are actually going right out to the last mile, where neither of these other two solutions make economic sense,” he said. “This is becoming an increasing part of government’s policy.”

The company aims to invest in opening more shops in Kenya as part of the partnership to meet growing demand, working alongside its current shareholder African Infrastructure Investment Fund 3 (AIIF3), a fund managed by Africa Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM).

It comes three years after EDF bought a 50% shareholding in Bboxx’s operations in Togo, where the company went on to install a wide-ranging off-grid system that distributed electricity to a rural village supplied by PV-generated power. The project’s launch was inaugurated by Togo’s President, Faure Gnassingbé, in 2019.

Bboxx’s co-founder and chief executive, Mansoor Hamayun, said that the decision to create another partnership with EDF in Kenya “demonstrates our commitment to scale and expand access to essential off-grid solar energy.”

By forging strategic ownership deals with global power companies, Hamayun said his former startup can gain access to and deploy “substantial investment” to support climate goals. The partnership will aim to recruit 2 million solar home system customers in Kenya by 2025.

“Despite the COVID-19 environment, this announcement underlines the robustness of our business model and confidence in our tools to build back better. We look forward to growing together and developing new partnership opportunities to unlock potential and transform millions of lives.”

EDF has spent the past five years building up its presence in Africa’s developing renewables sector. It formed a partnership with Off Grid Electric to install PV systems in the Ivory Coast in 2016, and has gone on to build a presence in Ghana, Ethiopia and Zambia.

Valerie Levkov, senior vice president of EDF’s Africa, Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean Division, said the company is “excited to build on our existing partnership with Bboxx” and further scale up its off-grid operations in Africa.

“We take pride in creating synergies between our various partners in Kenya in support of the country’s growth. Our expansion on the Kenyan market is part of our CAP 2030 strategic goal of tripling our activities at the international level.”

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