SOLARKIOSK: targeting Africa’s 800 million people without energy access

Today’s featured member of the VC4Africa community is Sasha Kolopic of SOLARKIOSK, currently operating in Germany, Ethiopia, and Kenya. SOLARKIOSK offers kiosks with solar panels on top, designed for areas not connected to an electricity grid. They are looking for partners interested in establishing joint ventures across Africa.

The last time we interviewed you was in August 2012. What has happened in the mean time?

“By the end of 2012, we have implemented a total of 7 kiosks in Ethiopia, with more to come this year. We have established our Kenyan subsidiary by the end of that year as well. Our pilot project is currently underway in Kenya, where we will implement 5 kiosks, as of this month.”

What is the essence of your business plan?

“There is almost 100% cell phone ownership in Africa, yet 800 million people cannot charge their phones at home because they are off-grid. People in off-grid areas spend up to 40% of their income on dirty fuels to cover their basic energy needs alone. This presents a huge market for products and services based on clean solar energy. People in off-grid areas use diesel, kerosene, charcoal, and firewood because they still do not have affordable and reliable access to clean alternatives. We provide those alternatives and more.”

What social and economic impact do you expect SOLARKIOSK will have in the long run?

“In the long run, we want to be the sustainable foundation for economic and social development in off-grid areas. SOLARKIOSK will not only redefine energy consumption, but also enhance communication, socializing, and entrepreneurship in off-grid areas.”

How will you enhance entrepreneurship?

“If you enable an entrepreneur to build up a business on clean and affordable solar energy, then the rest of the community will start to transform itself in that regard as well. It will adapt from dirty, dangerous, and unsustainable fuels like firewood, charcoal, kerosene, diesel and the like, towards cleaner, cheaper, and much more abundant alternatives. We help spur development in off-grid communities by bringing affordable and reliable solar products, solar energy provision, enabling digital communication and providing a social gathering place at night, among other things.”

What are the specific qualities of your team?

“We have a very diverse team with a variety of previous international experiences, from the technical to the business side, whether it is in Africa, Europe, or North America. What brings us all together is the sense of purpose we feel with the Solarkiosk project, from the top leadership to our subsidiaries in Africa. Each team member has a specific skill set which is crucial to the success of the project.”

Do you have many competitors and what are your unique selling points?

“We don’t have any direct competitors yet. Our unique selling point is that the Solarkiosk is a completely autonomous, modular, secure, and easy-to-use business unit providing a decentralized energy supply.”

What are the main learnings from your pilots?

“We are very satisfied with the performance of our kiosks thus far and they are delivering great results. The operators of our pilot kiosks are providing us with valuable information about the different demands of each community and how we can improve and expand our services and products.”

What kind of partners are you looking for?

“We are looking for partners who are interested in establishing joint ventures in their respective countries / regions. The scope of the investments or partnerships would be determined by mutually defined goals and strategies. Our next steps would be the successful continuation of our current pilot projects, as well as preparation of steps and plans towards a larger rollout.”

How do you see the VC4Africa community, how do you use it? 

“VC4Africa has been a wonderful resource for contacts and networking. Innovative projects are being connected to innovative people – it is terrific!”

What advice would you give other ventures in the VC4Africa community, and how can other members support you?

“My advice to other ventures is to try to understand your community and its needs, because they are changing fast and thus provide plenty of opportunity. We are trying to learn as much as we can about the various needs of each and every country where SOLARKIOSK could be present. We encourage VC4Africa members to share with us information about communities that have limited or no grid access at all and could use a SOLARKIOSK to help spur development!”

For more information, see the venture profile of SOLARKIOSK on VC4Africa. Only registered investors can review documents, see details and express their interest to invest. Entrepreneurs who join VC4Africa can register their venture and follow five steps to fundraising on VC4AfricaRegister as an investor on VC4Africa to see which screened ventures are presently fundraising, track their progress and review private documents.