BBOXX raises $20m funding to boost African off-grid solar presence


BBOXX Ltd, a London-based provider of off-grid solar systems active in many parts of Africa, has secured $20 million in Series C funding from a consortium of international backers and investors.

Founded in 2010, BBOXX has been active in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, bringing its distributed solar energy platform to large swathes of off-grid areas in Kenya and Rwanda. Having enjoyed success in these countries, the company intends to use the $20 million investment to aid its expansion into West Africa, namely Nigeria, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast.

BBOXX also said it will steer some of the funds towards growing its retail distribution networks and after-sales service centers in Kenya and Rwanda, where it is currently building an operational headquarters in Kigali.

This latest round of investment – which follows on the heels of a $15 million fundraising venture in December last year – is supported by French energy firm Engie, Kawisafi Ventures, the Green Climate Fund, Holland’s Doen Foundation and Canadian merchant bank MacKinnon Bennett & Co.

Growth westwards would represent bold strides for the company, which is already on course to end 2016 having electrified as many Rwandan households as the nation’s national grid. Rwanda’s government aims to meet the electricity demands of 20% of its population with off-grid solar systems, putting BBOXX in pole position to meet these goals. Thus far, BBOXX has installed around 70,000 solar systems across Africa.

Engie’s MD Laure Vincotte said that the firm is "excited about the growth potential for the African off-grid solar market, and delighted with BBOXX’s rapid development", adding that the company’s technology is fully in line with Engie’s objective of "promoting sustainable and scalable energy solutions for all".

MacKinnon Bennett’s Patrick Bennett added that BBOXX’s aim of building the next generation of energy services – "connected, distributed, renewable and focused on customer service" – represented a strong opportunity for the bank to get involved in a rapidly growing global utility market.

Off-grid solar has come a long way in a short space of time. Data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) suggests the market was worth $700 million in 2015, and will easily surpass that this year as more than 100 developers, operating mostly in rural Africa and Asia, move the industry forward.

Typically, the sector is shaped by solar panels affixed to rural rooftops, supported by battery storage and augmented by solar lights, chargers and other appliances, and a variety of funding options are available to customers – the intention of many providers being one of collaboration with local populations, rather than mere top-down service.

In January BBOXX itself introduced the first securitization model for residential off-grid solar installations in Africa, with the aim to raise up to $5 billion over the next five years to turn solar in Africa into an asset class.

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