Microsoft-backed initiative seeks to boost solar energy access in sub-Saharan Africa


Microsoft has announced a partnership, Scaling Off-Grid Energy: Grand Challenge for Development meant to empower entrepreneurs to expand off-grid solar energy access in sub-Saharan Africa at the 22nd session of the UN Climate conference (#COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco,

The Grand Challenge for Development, launched by Power Africa, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID), as well as the Shell Foundation independent charity, aims to bring clean, modern and affordable electricity to 20 million African households by 2030.

This international collaboration is part of Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative, which helps to improve affordable access to the internet by investing in innovative businesses that connect the world by growing and scaling groundbreaking cloud-based services. It also aligns with the goals of Microsoft’s  Cloud for Global Good initiative, which aims to build a cloud that is trusted, responsible and accessible to everyone, as well as Microsoft’s corporate mission to empower every person on the planet to achieve more.

Microsoft believes that digital transformation can create positive change, and that Microsoft technology must be environmentally sustainable and universally accessible in order to truly make a global impact. Today, more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to clean, safe and affordable electricity, preventing them from joining the digital revolution and realizing their full economic and creative potential.

Through initiatives such as the Carbon Offset Program, 4 Afrika and the Affordable Access Initiative, Microsoft supports sustainable development and low-carbon economic growth throughout Africa and around the world. Here are a few examples of the innovative organizations that have received Microsoft support for their work in Africa:

  • ARED: African Renewable Energy Distributor (ARED) powers connectivity through stable, reliable energy solutions. In the heart of Kigali, Rwanda’s Nyabugogo market, ARED franchisees provide mobile solar kiosks for phone charging, airtime, mobile money, content storage and data connection. ARED also fosters gender equality and entrepreneurship by requiring at least 30 percent of franchisees to be women.
  • New Sun Road: New Sun Road designs, builds and installs SolPower™ micro-grid systems with broadband internet, remote monitoring and control and data analytics. With Affordable Access Initiative support, NSR is building out its next-generation network, micro-grid, and Stellar software solutions for small businesses and communities in Uganda’s Lake Victoria region.
  • M-KOPA Solar: M-KOPA’s mission is to make high-quality energy affordable to everyone. M-KOPA has created roughly 2,500 jobs in East Africa and connected more than 400,000 homes in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to solar power with over 500 new homes being added every day. Each 8W battery powered-system comes with three lights, mobile phone-charging and a solar-powered radio and customers can now opt for a 20W system with digital TV.

Microsoft is proud of what these grantees have accomplished and looks forward to leveraging core business capabilities in areas such as data analytics and business management software to help scale even more off-grid energy solutions in the future as part of the Scaling Off-Grid Energy: Grand Challenge for Development.