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Mobile payment technology is giving millions of Africans access to cheap and clean energy

Mobile payment technology is giving millions of Africans access to cheap and clean energy by allowing them to stagger payments rather than paying hefty sums up-front.

An estimated 16 percent of the world’s population – 1.2 billion people – have little or no access to electricity, with 625 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone having to rely on bio and fossil fuels such as wood, charcoal and kerosene.

But now tech companies are partnering with financial services companies to develop QR payment solutions to expand the reach of off-grid solar providers.

M-KOPA, which already provides affordable, safe and clean energy to 3 million people in East Africa, has announced it will pilot Mastercard’s Quick Response (QR) payment technology in Uganda to extend the reach of its pioneering pay-as-you-go solar program.

Masterpass QR, an open and interoperable technology will create a new payment channel for M-KOPA’s pay-as-you-go customers outside for Kenya.

The network of mobile network operators and banks using Masterpass QR will help M-KOPA to scale and grow across Africa without requiring additional technology investments.

Masterpass QR is currently available in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

Kiki Del Valle, senior vice president, Commerce for Every Device, Mastercard, said: “We may take for granted our ability to produce light with the simple flick of a switch.

“But for many around the world, simple things like having electricity can be life changing.

“By using our digital payment capabilities, we want to make it easy for people to access reliable and regular sources of energy and become more economically resilient – earn a livelihood by working from home, keep shops and businesses open for longer and study after dark.”

Solar is an independent way for people to power homes and businesses but requires a large, one-time investment.

With pay-as-you-go financing, M-KOPA customers purchase a solar home system on credit and make small daily payments using mobile money for less than what they previously spent on hazardous, kerosene lamps.

Customers will now be able to make daily payments or top up the solar accounts easily by either scanning a Quick Response (QR) code from their smartphone or by entering the merchant ID associated with the QR code into their feature phone.

After making successive payments towards their solar system for roughly a year, customers build creditworthiness and can purchase other products, such solar-powered televisions, energy-efficient cook stoves and smartphones on a similar payment scheme.

Nick Hughes, co-founder and chief product officer, M-KOPA Solar, said: “We’ve proven that the pay-as-you-go solar model works in East Africa, but the off-grid market in Africa is tremendous.

“Our partnership with Mastercard provides the roadway for more solar services and infrastructure across the continent.

“QR technology holds great opportunity to extend the range of payment channels for customers and represents a step-change in our mutual goal to light up homes and businesses in Africa.”

Following a successful pilot, Mastercard and M-KOPA plan to extend the program across East Africa.

Mastercard will also work with mobile network operators to extend this model to other utilities like water and gas in developing markets across the world.

This digital service innovation will open up new business opportunities for telecommunication companies and mobile network operators and evolve their business model beyond providing airtime and data services.

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