Off Grid powers up finance
US start-up Off Grid Electric has just received $16 million in new funding and will use the money to expand its prepaid solar energy service in Africa. User pay a small fee to get a home solar system comprising panels, lithium battery, efficient lights and a meter, then make mobile payments to release a passcode they can use to fire up the equipment. Off Grid reckons it can deliver around 50 times more light than an equivalent spend on kerosene.
In a separate development, MasterCard is rolling out its MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion in Nairobi to develop financial services for people in East Africa suffering from institutional exclusion. That means looking out for start-ups with new prototypes in areas such as payment acceptance and P2P, with ideas pushed from concept through to commercialisation. The initiative has snagged $11 million in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to use in R&D, with Mastercard financing the lab going forward.