BBOXX secures $31m investment – as well as a top eco prize

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British next generation utility platform BBOXX has secured investment of $31 million from the Africa Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) fund in return for a minority stake in the firm’s branches in Rwanda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The cash boost capped a successful week for the London-based company as it secured $600,000 by winning the Zayed Sustainability Prize for energy, a prestigious annual award founded to remember Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, who died in 2004.

The AIIM fund is Africa’s largest project-based investment vehicle and the BBOXX deal – made under the group’s AIIF3 pool – secured a stake in the British business’ electrification operations, which have connected more than 750,000 people to power.

The funding is set to dramatically expand BBOXX’s operations, with the company stating 10 million people will gain energy access through the injection of capital. Jurie Swart, CEO of the AIIM fund, said: “It is also telling that an infrastructure fund like ours is backing distributed solar through investing in a company of the calibre of BBOXX. It reflects both the ambition of BBOXX and the maturity of the off-grid sector.”

Plug and play will be accelerated

The cash will be used to substantially roll out the company’s specialized solar platform – which incorporates PV, battery systems, real-time analytics and the option of mobile phone utility payments, a set-up the company describes as ‘plug and play’.

The pay-as-you-go utility option may be crucial for sub-Saharan Africa’s electrification as many people have little access to bank accounts. Another unique feature of the BBOXX model is its localized distribution and installation platforms, creating jobs and aiding community development.

Mansoor Hamayun, the company’s CEO and co-founder said: “AIIM’s investment will turbocharge our operations in Rwanda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This will allow us to scale rapidly and continue to drive disaggregation in what has traditionally been a vertically integrated market.”

The deal follows other recent partnerships for the rapidly-expanding BBOXX, one of the first companies to spot opportunities in the small electricity markets of many African countries. The business recently teamed up with EDF for operations in Togo, with General Electric in the DRC and with Orange for streamlining telecommunications in West Africa. Partnerships with local governments have also helped reduce commercial barriers in Africa after BBOXX’s operations were catalyzed through a crowdfunding scheme last year.