Economy• ENERGY

Solar Startup Pawame Powers Kenya and Beyond

From energy to microfinance and back again.
Rachel Presser

The Abu Dhabi–based off-grid solar startup Pawame (pronounced “power me”) was founded in 2015 to address significant gaps in providing electrical power to sub-Saharan Africa, where reliable electricity is still problematic for hundreds of millions of people. 

The basic Pawame solar kit can power a few devices, such as energy-efficient lamps, mobile phones, radios, or flashlights. Further upgrades allow the expandable system to take on basic electrical appliances like TVs, and can store solar energy for up to 18 months. 

Earlier this year, Pawame raised $2 million from the United Arab Emirates–based investment firm CT Arabia to supply solar kits to Kenya. The pilot program is currently serving over 4,000 households. With a starter kit that costs less than $30, the company intends to provide affordable and easy-to-use energy to over 150 million low-income Africans. Pay-as-you-go microfinancing also helps customers establish credit and subsequently gain access to more services. 

Pawame will be investing in further production of solar kits and expanding the company’s reach beyond Kenya after 2018. And a new partnership with Mastercard to increase the availability of microloans and other financial products for Pawame’s customers has the potential to position the company as a leader in the African microfinance boom.