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Updated Jan 26, 2020

As a post-Brexit United Kingdom searches for new trade and investment opportunities, a growing pay-as-you-go home solar system business is booming in Africa, with a sizeable future market to tap into as well. Millions of Africans still remain without reliable electricity, especially those living in more rural areas of the continent. New mobile technology is being used to rent low-cost solar panels, and UK companies have taken the lead in this area by helping five million homes sign up for pay-as-you-go systems.

During the UK–Africa Investment Summit held in London—part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to encourage greater economic cooperation—Kleos Advisory published a report showing that the commercial opportunity from off-grid solar panels could generate US$24 billion a year. A combination of fast-growing economies, greater access to mobile banking and financing services, and dramatically lower costs for solar panels has made this business venture much more feasible.

Renting the solar panels has provided electricity access for the first time to millions of African households. Once the cost of the panels is paid off, the homeowners own them outright, and many then choose to upgrade their package to include a television and an electric cooker.

The off-grid solar market is expected to grow rapidly, and UK companies are racing to corner the market.

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