Fundraising: KARIBU Solar Power, Africa’s modular solar lamp making lighting & phone charging affordable

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Learn more about the entrepreneurs selected to fundraise in VC4Africa’s June Cohort. Below we interview Adam Camenzuli of KARIBU Solar Power.

What is your background and what’s the story of how you’ve set up KARIBU Solar Power?

“My background is in finance, manufacturing and non-profit management and our team has a wide spectrum of skills and experience. We began bringing solar lamps into Tanzania and we learned that the major barrier for most people was affordability. We went back to the drawing board and developed our new modular solar lamp. This new lamp in tandem with the social distribution model allows for solar lamps, and mobile phone charging, to be affordable.”

What’s the business opportunity you address and the essence of your business plan?

“KARIBU Solar Power is an innovative social enterprise that makes high quality solar lighting and mobile phone charging affordable. We produce a modular solar lamp: solar panel, rechargeable battery with mobile phone charger, and light – and employ an innovative business model that allows consumers to enjoy the benefits of solar lighting, while paying in small increments, just like they would for kerosene. This makes it affordable to the 500+ million Africans who do not have adequate access to light and energy.

A KARIBU micro-franchisee sells the battery, charger and light components of the lamp to a consumer and keeps the solar panel – the only way to charge the battery. In one distribution model iteration, the consumer begins a “rent-to-own” program and “pays per charge” replicating the cash flow for buying kerosene, making solar affordable at under $1 a day. After just a few weeks, the consumer gains ownership of the solar panel and can charge the battery on their own. By leveraging micro-franchisees and local infrastructure, we create new income for communities and provide superior lighting and mobile phone charging that is far more affordable than dangerous and environmentally damaging kerosene and alternatives. We are welcoming Africa to affordable solar.” 

What milestones have you reached with KARIBU Solar Power to date?

“We are currently on the ground in Tanzania validating assumptions and speaking with potential customers about the new modular lamp and the social business model. It’s very exciting to meet with people and see how enthusiastic they become when we talk about our modular lamp and how everything works.

We were successful in winning the Principality of Monaco’s The EDGE Business Challenge which allowed us to interact with potential social impact investors. We were also recently selected as a Top 4 African Enterprise at INDIAFRICA and met with like-minded entrepreneurs from Africa and India in Johannesburg, South Africa. This was an honour and a great experience. We were also able to talk about KARIBU Solar Power on KAYA FM, a popular radio station in South Africa.”

How have you financed the business to date? And what makes KARIBU Solar Power interesting for investors?

“We have financed the business from operations to date. Our skill-set and background coupled with our experience in bringing solar lamps into Tanzania greatly reduces the risk. Unlike other ventures, we are a proven social enterprise introducing a new innovative product and social business model. In addition, the social impact from our core business is immense and has the potential to change millions of people’s lives.”

What kind of investments are you looking for, and which milestones do you want to reach with them?

“We are looking for like-minded impact investors and are seeking $150,000. We would like to prove the business model and set the groundwork for scaling.”

What are your unique selling points compared to your competitors?

“Affordability. We have designed our product and model to fit with people’s current habits – just like pay-as-you-go mobile phone credit. It is designed around how people currently buy and use light and energy – small daily payments for kerosene. On the technical side, the modularization is a special feature of our solar lamp.”

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What impact do you have and are you aiming for?

“We reduce carbon emissions with every solar lamp that we sell. Based on Lighting Africa market research we estimate that if one KARIBU lamp replaces 1 household’s use of kerosene, savings are around 150kg of CO2 emissions a year per lamp. In addition, we improve health and safety in homes by eliminating toxic and dangerous kerosene lamps. We also save families a sizeable portion of their income that they spend on kerosene and by providing light, we can boost children’s studying time at night.”

What was the single greatest challenge you faced to date, and how did you overcome this?

“There were challenges in developing the new modular lamp but with our dedicated technology team, especially Brian Camenzuli, we have overcome these challenges.”

How do you see VC4Africa as a platform and as a community and how do
you use it?

“It is a great open forum to connect with like-minded people around the world.”

Anything you’d like to add?

“I would like to thank some people who have been great supporters of KARIBU: Kevin McKague, Jean & Matthew Millar and, Andrew Clark among others.”

Check out KARIBU Solar Power’s VC4Africa venture profile for more info. Only investors registered on VC4Africa can get access to private documents and all other details of the ventures, and express their interest to invest.