Article by Sun-Connect News

In Benin most people in rural areas are not connected to the electricity grid and depend on lanterns which run on dirty and costly kerosene or short-lasting battery powered lanterns for lighting. They also spend a significant amount of money on charging their phones at local kiosks (FCFA 550 – or around USD 1 – per week, according to our research). Solar lanterns with phone charging capabilities could be an ideal replacement for these energy needs. We discovered this from speaking with many rural households in Benin during a previous solar project and finding that demand for such products is high. Greenlight Planet's Sun King products were especially popular, but potential customers did not have the cash available to pay for these products up front and said they would prefer paying in instalments.

Introducing Pay-as-you-go solar products

Through the Bright Lights for Benin project, we are introducing Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar lanterns to the Beninese market for the first time. PAYG allows customers to buy the lantern for a small down-payment and pay it off in regular instalments. If the customer does not pay, the system is automatically switched off by the manufacturer. For this project, we brought together one of the leading producers of solar lighting products, Greenlight Planet, and a Beninese solar import-supplier, ARESS, to introduce these products to the market. Greenlight Planet’s Sun King Pro is equipped with Easy Buy, a payment platform tool developed by Angaza, a firm that specialises in developing PAYG capabilities. Through Easy Buy, customers could pay off the system in weekly cash payments to a sales agent.

The next step was to integrate this payment platform with the mobile network operator – MTN Benin, so customers could pay installments with their mobile phones. This took time, but is now in place and will allow customers to pay for the lanterns using mobile money, without having to physically visit the agent after the initial purchase. Once all payments are made over a 24 week period, the lantern is unlocked indefinitely. So far, customers are enthusiastic about the PAYG mechanism, because it helps them to pay progressively for their solar lanterns. One customer remarked: ‘I pay for my solar lantern as I buy credit for my mobile phone.’

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