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AECF holds competition to advance renewable energy

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The Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) is holding seminars to discuss its recently launched household solar competition under its Renewable Energy and Climate Adaptation Technologies (React) window.

The competition aims to drive innovation in companies that have the potential to build affordable off-grid stand-alone household solar systems in the target countries of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

A statement from the fund indicates that the seminars will be held in the four target countries during the week of June 5 2017.

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Speaking ahead of the seminars, AECF Chief Executive Officer Paul Greener said, while governments have a responsibility to ensure their citizens have access to low cost electricity, the contribution of the private sector is critical to achieving this.

“However, investment in innovative technologies that enable access of the rural poor to electricity is limited due to its risky nature. AECF, therefore, seeks to bridge this gap by providing capital to the private sector to de-risk their investment in innovative technologies that enable rural households to access low cost electricity to improve their quality of life and incomes,” he said.

The total React Household Solar window funding is approximately $10 million, with available funding to businesses ranging from $250,000 to $1.5 million.

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The new window will build on React’s existing work, which has so far held four rounds and invested in 71 businesses in East Africa and Mozambique that have provided access to electricity to over 500,000 rural households.

These businesses have created 3,000 jobs and leveraged $150 million in follow-on funding.

“The markets for off-grid electricity in Southern African countries, in particular Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, are expected to grow at a slower pace than in East Africa. With continued investment from AECF Limited through React, we hope to create a positive contribution by financing private sector businesses to stir up the required growth over the next five years.

“In addition, we expect the selected companies to work with governments and other investors to create a long lasting market system within the target countries,” Victor Ndiege, React Portfolio Manager said.

The fund will enable companies to develop innovative and transformational business models that help people to access electricity through off-grid household solar systems, giving commercially viable businesses the developmental backing to create sustainable household solar markets.

It also aims to ensure access to electricity is affordable to the rural and peri-urban poor, and to capture and disseminate ecosystem lessons on how SHS delivers positive social and economic impact for those same people. The new React window receives funding from the United Kingdom government and runs from May 10 to June 25 2017.

The winning companies shall be announced in September 2017.

AECF is an Africa-based $265 million challenge fund that provides catalytic funding to enterprises in 24 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The fund provides grants and zero interest loans to businesses in the agribusiness, renewable energy and adaptation to climate change technology sectors with the aim of reducing rural poverty, promoting resilient rural communities and job creation through private sector development.

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