Innovation in the Energy Sector: Transforming Lives in Rwanda

By Gerald Rasugu
On 9 July 2019 at 06:30

The Mobile 360 Series – Africa is back in Kigali this year, on 16-18th July, for the second year running. Organized by the GSMA, which represents the worldwide mobile communications industry, one GSMA team – Mobile for Development – is particularly excited about the upcoming event, which will gather leaders from across Africa to share disruptive and inspirational ideas contributing to Africa’s digital rise.

The GSMA Mobile for Development team drives innovation in digital technology to reduce inequalities in our world.

Our global team is singularly positioned at the intersection of the mobile ecosystem and the development sector, allowing us to stimulate digital innovation to deliver both sustainable business models and large-scale socio-economic impact.

We have an important research and insights platform that helps empower under-served populations, wherever they are, to build a better future, through partnerships between the mobile industry, tech innovators, governments and the development sector.

The Mobile for Development team works on bringing innovation to mobile connectivity, mobile money, energy, water, sanitation, agriculture, identity, disability, humanitarian response and the reduction of the mobile gender gap. To date, our work has impacted the lives of 58 million people.

Our global team is singularly positioned at the intersection of the mobile ecosystem and the development sector

If we look at the energy sector, some progress is evident in the reduction of people without access to electricity from 1.2 billion in 2010 to 840 million in 2017, yet most of those still without access are in Africa.

To address this, a new generation of entrepreneurial businesses have taken on the challenge of providing critical utility services (such as electricity, water, and sanitation) to off-grid populations, by using a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) model.

These businesses need to accept ongoing incremental payments from their customers, and mobile money provides them with a solution to do just that.

However, integrating with mobile operators to receive payments is not easy or efficient for these service providers.

To address this, we developed the Instant Payment Notification (IPN) Hub, which provides a single point of integration between mobile money providers and the growing PAYG sector.

The IPN Hub enables small PAYG utility service providers to integrate easily with mobile operators by providing them with instant notifications of payments made - a critical requirement for providers to serve their customers in real-time, so they can immediately turn on their lights following payment.

The hub was launched here in Rwanda, currently connects MTN Rwanda, Airtel Rwanda, BBoxx, Off-Grid Electric, Inyenyeri (PAYG cookstoves) and Rural Spark and is now being scaled across Africa with five other live markets.

Beyond PAYG solar, the IPN Hub can also be useful for service providers in water, sanitation, school fees, and other sectors.

For customers here in Rwanda, having a PAYG solar kit at home is not just a matter of convenience. Increasingly, PAYG solar companies are working to provide their customers with more than just lighting.

Phone charging and access to TVs provide customers with communication and information, while things like hair clippers can be used for micro-entrepreneurs to generate income. Together these services are driving financial inclusion and transforming the quality of peoples’ lives.

The Mobile for Development team works on bringing innovation to mobile connectivity

The IPN Hub is not just helping the PAYG industry and mobile payments to grow. Its effect is much bigger – it transforms the quality of people’s lives.

The author is Gerald Rasugu, Mobile for Development Director, Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA