africa | January 19, 2018

For solar energy, follow the cell phone signal

The team at


Fewer than 14% of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have access to electricity; only seven other countries fare worse.

Millions died in its nearly 10-year-long civil war, and deadly violence still afflicts parts of the country. Yet even the DRC is attracting energy companies committed to the 2030 goal of universal energy access.

“We are looking for three things: customers without electricity, access to mobile money, and a good telecom signal,” says Mansoor Hamayun, CEO of BBOXX, a seller of solar mini-grids that recently launched operations in the country.

The company is selling its solar-lighting products in rural parts of the DRC and has partnered with solar manufacturer Victron Energy to roll out larger-scale systems for cities.

These systems will power shops or agriculture equipment using mobile money. Nearly one-quarter of people in the DRC regularly use mobile payments, making it attractive to pay-as-you-go solar companies like BBOXX.

The company last year raised $5 million in debt funding to help 150,000 Rwandans finance BBOXX’s home solar products and systems.