VentureBuilder to fund new off-grid solar enterprises in Africa

VentureBuilder, a firm focused on scaling African-owned and managed off-grid solar enterprises, has been launched ahead of the Unlocking Solar Capital Africa conference with support from the DOEN Foundation, Facebook, Shell Foundation, and USAID.

Aimed to expand energy access to underserved populations in Africa, VentureBuilder’s launch will enable it to pioneer a new investment model that provides ‘patient’ early-stage capital to its local partners across Africa, combined with a specialized suite of technical expertise that will accelerate each partner’s path to scale.

Over 100 million African households lack access to modern electricity services, typically spending considerable sums on stopgap lighting via kerosene, candles, and dry-cell batteries, and relying on costly and inconvenient charging services to power mobile phones. VentureBuilder will tackle this challenge, helping indigenous distributors grow into high-impact solar companies that deliver modern, affordable, and reliable electricity.

VentureBuilder will focus on three key areas to close the electricity access gap: partner with existing local African distribution enterprises that cater to rural underserved communities; invest requisite ‘patient’ capital alongside Enterprise Development Services to enable entrepreneurs to scale their business; and track key metrics associated with business performance and social impact.

“As Africa’s off-grid solar revolution has evolved, many industry insiders have recognized the need to empower a new generation of local enterprises,” said Dan Murphy, the MD of VentureBuilder. “We’re excited to partner with these local businesses and provide them with the human and financial resources they need to sustainably and profitably scale their impact”.

VentureBuilder has been co-developed by Catalyst Off-Grid Advisors and Open Capital Advisors since 2017, leveraging both companies’ decades of experience in building, advising, and financing off-grid solar companies. The development phase was made possible with support from Facebook, who also committed additional financing alongside the DOEN Foundation, Shell Foundation, and USAID for the implementation phase.

“The DOEN Foundation has supported dozens of energy access initiatives over the years. We believe VentureBuilder can be a gamechanger in supporting and scaling indigenous enterprises across Africa, in areas most in need,” according to Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation.

Sam Parker, the Director of the Shell Foundation added: “Research shows that achieving SDG7 requires an additional 300+ companies to deliver energy services to millions of consumers in sub-Saharan Africa. Supporting local entrepreneurs with established distribution networks to expand into household solar energy services represents a vital delivery mechanism and we are excited to support VentureBuilder to demonstrate this in practice.”

VentureBuilder provides flexible, long-term early-stage financing as well as Enterprise Development Services to African-owned and managed distribution enterprises. VentureBuilder will catalyze a new generation of businesses that deliver affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity access across Africa.

Catalyst Off-Grid Advisors is a boutique consultancy focused on helping its clients tackle the global energy access deficit. We bring together the skills of a wide array of energy, strategy, and finance specialists with decades of combined energy access experience.

Open Capital Advisors is a management consulting and financial advisory firm founded in 2010 with a mission to advance African economies and build future generations of business leaders. We help businesses, investors and development partners across Africa analyze and adapt to rapidly changing and growing markets by providing world class advisory services.

DOEN finances pioneers who use an entrepreneurial approach to come up with solutions for a better world. The DOEN Foundation was established by the Dutch Postcode Lottery and receives an annual contribution from the three Dutch Charity Lotteries.

Shell Foundation, founded by Shell in 2000, creates and scales business solutions to enhance access to energy and affordable transport for low-income communities across Africa and Asia. Shell Foundation’s support of VentureBuilder is provided in partnership with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) as part of the £60 million Transforming Inclusive Energy Markets program.

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