Light (Life) after Sunset: Enabled by Digital Financial Services

By: Belmiro Nhamithambo, FSDMoç Knowledge, Monitoring and Learning Analyst and Vânia Matola, FSDMoç Analyst

Access to electricity can transform lives and well-being of men and women living in rural areas. Mozambique needs to invest in renewable energies to support the expansion of the electricity grid.  While the grid only covers 29% of the country’s 28.8 million population, and expansion of the grid is slow and constrained by large infrastructure required, investments are needed in affordable and accessible alternative clean energy sources.

Mr. and Mrs. Chipandeque, an elderly couple that live in Sussundenga district in Manica province are among those individuals without access to reliable energy and using the often-dangerous kerosene alternative, until Epsilon Energia Solar (EES) arrived in their community.

EES with support from Financial Sector Deepening Moçambique (FSDMoç), a facility for financial sector development with a focus on expanding levels of inclusion, is implementing the ‘’Achieving Lowest Cost Energy and Financial Access in Mozambique’’ pilot project. EES will sell and provide financing for quality assured solar systems and related equipment to 3000 off grid customers in Sofala corridor through pay as you go (PAYGO) system.

This PAYGO system combines an intelligent solar technology with the mobile money plataform. In this case EES is using the well-known M-pesa, households in rural areas without access to energy will now access a solar system that can be used to light their house and charge their electronic devices such as cellphones and radio, among other uses.

Having clean energy for the first time

Mr. and Mrs. Chipandeque income comes from growing crops, breeding livestock and from an old-age pension that they receive. The couple had their first encounter with EES during community activation targeting pensioners that took place in Sussundenga on March 2018. During community activation sessions, EES presents the features of the solar kit system- the kit is comprised of a solar panel, three lamps and a transformer with ability to charge phones; they also explain about M-pesa usage. The kit can be purchased in full the cost is MZN 10,725.00. It can also be purchased on installments during 3, 6 and 12 months with payments made via M-pesa mobile money wallet to EES account on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. and Mrs. Chipandeque knew that if they were to have electricity at home for the first time in their lives, that was the opportunity and solution.  As one of the requirements to purchase the kit is making payments via M-Pesa, and the couple did not even own a mobile phone, they requested the EES salesperson to return two days later. The old couple managed to purchase sim card and mobile phone in the following day. ‘’I was very happy when I went to visit this couple two days later and found them with a mobile phone and a sim card, using mobile phone and mobile wallet for the first time. Even at an advanced age they were willing and able to learn and use the technology allowing them access to clean energy via Epsilon Energia Solar system.’’ – Aflita Albino, EES salesperson.

The couple didn’t have cash to make a full upfront payment for the equipment so, after pondering how best to pay for the kit with help of the EES salesperson, they decided that the best option, based on their various income streams, they preferred to go with the PAYGO because it is flexible when it comes to payments, allowing daily, weekly or monthly installments. They can pay less for instance, during crop planting and cultivation, and more during harvest and selling season. According to Aflita Albino, the EES salesperson that personally serves the couple, they are one of her most faithful customers. They have never defaulted and always pay in advance of due dates.

Well-being coupled with increased income

Epsilon Energia Solar PAYGO system has changed the couple’s life.

’I really like this system because it is really easy to use. Every morning I just need to worry on taking the solar out and put it on top of the roof so that it fully recharges. I was first afraid that the system could stop working one day and we could lose the money invested but I was assured that they would always be nearby and that the systems are covered by 2 years warranty which means that in case of assistance I just need to call them and they will assist me. My only worry now is to keep the equipment clean and well taken care of. You cannot imagine how this little solar panel makes our lives better now.’’ – shared Mrs. Chipandeque very emotionally.

She continued saying that after dark, she can now do some domestic light works inside the house while chatting with her husband. In some of the days, as she does sell a traditional (Pombe– in local language) on her yard to her loyal customers, she can go further and sell even when the sun is setting as she just need to take one of the lamps from inside her house to where people are sitting in the yard. ‘’My earning on selling has increased substantially with the additional hours of selling. – she bragged.

’One year will pass by very quickly. It is only a few months now before the payments are finalized and we will fully own the solar system. It will be just us and the sun. We will have energy for free. The electricity will be all ours’’ said Mr. Chipandeque with a smile on his face.

Mobile payment solutions are enabling better access of rural households to life changing goods and services.  This story illustrates how rural communities, regardless of age, language, level of education, are able to use mobile technology. With the right customer care and product education, mobile payment providers and businesses can improve the access of the rural underserved to goods and services, supporting improvements in livelihoods, wellbeing, and economic resilience.  FSDMoç provided a catalytic grant to EES to pilot test the solar kit as a use case for mobile payments, moving more people from using cash to digital payments. As adoption of digital finance increases, so it will be levels of financial inclusion in Mozambique.  Digital finance will open up access to other financial services, as well as goods and services, and economic opportunities.

Denise Alves

Leave Comment :