• Kenyans living in the rural areas with no access to the national electricity grid will now be able to enjoy watching television, after M-Kopa, a solar financier, unveiled its first digital solar-powered flat screen TV sets.

    The firm said that the product is targeted to appeal to people living in the rural areas who majorly live in darkness, with no electricity or television. Data compiled by the Kenya Audience Research Foundation 2015 indicate that TV only reaches 31% of the adult population on a daily basis. This leaves a staggering 69% of adults in the ‘dark’, either from lack of electricity or simply cannot afford a TV set. The firm has sold 500 solar TVs already.

    Speaking during the unveiling of the product at their headquarters in Kilimani, Nairobi, M-Kopa CEO, Jesse Moore, said: “owning TV is life changing for our off-grid customers. Many of them have traditionally had to pay to watch in a café or bar, or missed out on the news and current events because they could not afford to be connected to information.” He added that the project will enable a family be able to watch together in the comfort and safety of their homes.

    Two ways to be connected

    The TV package will be rolled out to both existing and new customers. For existing customers, who previously acquired the pay-as-you-use solar kits, the company will upgrade them to the M-Kopa plus TV model. These customers will be expected to pay sh50 on a daily basis which is equivalent to what they spend on fuel, for two years after which they take ownership of the TV set.

    “What’s remarkable about the M-Kopa plus TV is it enables customers to turn the same Sh50 per day that they used to burn on kerosene into a solar powered TV. We are literally turning dirty fossil fuels into renewable, digital, modern home,” said Moore.

    New customers, on the other hand, can opt to buy the M-Kopa 400, a new 20W solar home system for Sh45,000. Those wishing to pay overtime will make a deposit, Sh7,900, and remit Sh125 every day for a period of one year. M-Kopa 400 includes a 20W PV panel, a 16’ digital TV, two lights, a torch, a phone charger, and a radio. The digital TV comes with 26 free-to-air channels.

    Previously, the ‘pay-as-you-go’ solar energy provider distributed solar power systems to their clients at about Sh20,000 which comes with a solar panel, two LED bulbs, LED flashlight, a rechargeable radio, and adapters for charging a phone.

    To control defaulting customers, M-Kopa uses technology to remotely switch off the system from the firm’s headquarters.

    The CEO noted that the current means of owning a TV come with multiple-cost proposition such as a decoder, electricity, and monthly subscription. But with M-Kopa’s TV which comes with an inbuilt decoder, once a client pays off the credit, they enjoy 26 channels without pay.

    Speaking at the same event, Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore, noted that “M-pesa and Safaricom are helping make digital TV affordable and accessible for the first time for millions of people. I think M-Kopa’s innovation signals a fundamental change for TV audiences in Kenya. We are creating the genesis of a new economy based on clean energy that promises to include groups who have been previously marginalized.”

    Safaricom also promised to develop free educational content for children in the rural areas in future.

    Launched in 2012 by former telecoms executives, M-Kopa has connected more than 280,000 households in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to solar power and the firm says it is adding solar to 500 new homes each day.

    Partnerships with mobile money system like Safaricom’s M-Pesa has allowed customers to pay for their products in real-time. The solar systems are fitted with GSM sensors which allow the firm to monitor present performance and regulate usage based on payments.

    The solar financier won the 2013 FT/IFC Excellence in Sustainable Finance Award. M-Kopa was recognized as the winner of the SME category in the 2015 Zayed Future Energy Prize.