Off-grid solar lantern sales surge across Africa

By Elena Kachkova in Johannesburg May 13, 2024

A recent report by the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) has revealed the sustained popularity in Africa of lanterns powered by off-grid solar solutions as an increasing number of people across the continent choose cleaner lighting options.

The report, titled "Global Off-Grid Solar Market Data July-December 2023," was compiled using sales data from 32 solar energy kit manufacturers and 34 appliance manufacturers in the second half of 2023, Kenyan media outlet The Star reports. 

According to James Nzioka, a sustainable energy researcher at the University of Eldoret in Kenya, the trend highlights the growing relevance of off-grid solar power in addressing last-mile electrification challenges on the continent. 

"Millions across Africa still lack access to the grid," Nzioka remarked during a telephone interview with The Star. "But with off-grid solar, even the most remote villages can illuminate their homes using energy alternatives that are clean, efficient, and affordable."

One significant finding from the report is the increasing sales of lanterns in four regions of Africa: East, West, Central, and Southern Africa. GOGLA’s report also highlighted a shift from rent-to-own purchases (PAYGo) to cash sales.

In Kenya, an increase in lantern sales paid for in cash resulted in a 22% rise in sales for all kits and appliances in the country compared to the first half of 2023. In contrast, sales made through the PAYGo option saw a 5% increase.

Despite the increase in cash transactions, Nzioka said, the PAYGo model remained strong. "PAYGo is still highly relevant on the continent and will continue to shape the growth of off-grid solar in the region," he affirmed.

In East Africa, over 2.5mn solar energy kits were sold between July and December 2023, with lantern sales experiencing a surge of 17% compared to the previous half-year. The most substantial growth was seen in lanterns with low energy requirements of up to 1.5 watt peak capacity (Wp).

Kenya emerged as the primary market for off-grid solar energy kits in East Africa, accounting for 74% of total sales in the region, according to the report.

In West Africa, a similar trend in the low-energy lantern sector was observed, with an 18% increase compared to the first half of 2023. Cash transactions continued to rise steadily, climbing by 15% for all solar energy kits, while the PAYGo segment experienced a decline of 1%. Nigeria stands out as West Africa's largest market for off-grid solar energy kits, constituting 82% of all regional sales.

In Central Africa, the off-grid solar energy kit market is dominated by Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In the Southern African region, the report indicates a 62% rise in kit sales, primarily driven by cash transactions.

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