Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Financial Innovation with a Solar Twist

For many poor families in Kenya, the cost of kerosene to provide power in the home is a significant part of their budget. M-KOPA, started in Kenya in 2011, is a new way to supply safe light and power, offering off-grid customers better energy at lower cost. On its face, M-KOPA offers a solar-powered kit that includes three lights, a radio, and a mobile phone charger that helps rural families reduce expenditures on fuel for lighting and communication. But M-KOPA is not really a “solar company”, or rather is much more than that. Though its product is solar energy, the real innovation that it provides is a financial solution that enables low-income families to acquire a valuable asset on a pay as you go basis.

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Mobile Phones + Savings: A Powerful Pair

When I visited Kenya last December I had a chance to observe M-PESA, which is a mobile money service that is being used by more than 13 million people for storing and transferring money.

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