Unilever has joined forced with a UK provider of pay-as-you-go solar home systems to bring solar energy to millions of off-grid homes across Kenya.
Under the agreement, UK-based Azuri Technologies’ solar system will be rolled out through Unilever’s distribution network, which reaches 67,000 small traders across Kenya.
The announcement was made during Prime Minister Theresa May’s state visit to Kenya this week as she seeks to boost trade links with the East African country.
Azuri CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth was among the UK business leaders who accompanied May on her visit.
More than 600 million people in Africa have no access to electricity and many live in regions where the provision of grid electricity is prohibitively expensive. The partnership between Azuri and Unilever aims to expand the reach of pay-as-you-go solar energy systems through Unilever’s Sunlight brand.
Justin Apsey, managing director East Africa at Unilever, said the partnership will help “deliver life-changing solar technology to off-grid communities”.
“Solar power is proven to support the local and wider economy and further supports Unilever’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
Azuri’s solar home lighting system features home smart technology which uses artificial intelligence to monitor weather conditions and learn customer usage patterns so as to adjust output in order to ensure overnight power is available.
Individual systems include a 10W solar panel, four bright LED lights, USB ports and connectors for mobile phone charging, as well as a rechargeable radio and rechargeable torch.
Azuri estimates that owners of solar home systems on average increased their incomes by $35 per month.
Off grid solar systems are also credited with delivering health benefits by reducing reliance on polluting generators.
Since 2012, Azuri has created more than 2,000 jobs through its Kenyan partner companies to sell, support and maintain solar home systems.
Azuri CEO Simon Bransfield-Garth said: “Azuri is delighted to be partnering with Unilever to expand further the reach of solar pay-as-you-go technology.
“The partnership is fully aligned with both Azuri and Unilever’s mission to a triple bottom line of simultaneously delivering social, environmental and financial returns to customers and investors alike.”