Visiting our solar partner upOwa in Cameroon
Written by Lily Zhou on 16 December 2019
Enjoying a cold beer, relaxing with Netflix or simply turning on a lamp. What is normal to us, is a dream to many folks. More than a billion people across the world don’t have reliable access to energy. And of those 600 million people live in Africa. upOwa, partner of Lendahand, makes a big difference in Cameroon with their solar home systems. I visited upOwa and found out the impact of your investment.
Earlier we wrote why off-grid solar energy often is the most logical solution for people in rural Africa. More than 50% of our portfolio already consists of partners who offer sustainable energy solutions. upOwa is one of those partners. Originally from France, upOwa has been active in Cameroon since its founding in 2014. Their solar home systems give people in rural areas access to clean energy. Since we started working together with upOwa one and a half years ago, our crowd has invested over 1.5 million euros in the company. And it’s worth the investment!
Technology makes it all possible
I visited the upOwa’s headquarters in Yaondé, Cameroon’s capital. The staff received us with open arms and showed us what a day in the office looks like. We got to know the technical staff, as well as the call center team.
In their first year, upOwa only sold 35 solar home systems. Today they have installed nearly 6.000 systems. Which translates to clean and available energy for over 30.000 people. Because the system runs on solar energy, it is a much cleaner alternative than kerosene lamps. Most systems include a roof-mounted solar panel and inside a wall cabinet with three lamps. There are also variations with four lamps and a unit which also can be connected to devices likes cell phones, radios or even a television. In the future, upOwa aims to sell even larger units to power a refrigerator or freezer.
Pictured: A solar home system
What is particularly interesting about these systems is that they are so-called pay-go-units. Customers can purchase energy when it suits them. Using their mobile phones, people can pay for a code that enables the system. A great service, as most people aren’t financially capable to pay for a solar home system in one go.
Quality & customer service
Unlike many competitors, Service After Sales (SAS) is of great importance to upOwa. Their call center consists of ten employees who you can call seven days a week for questions or problems. 85% of all questions are solved on the phone. In other cases, a technician will stop by.
Using the capital our crowd invests, upOwa will be able to connect more people to their energy systems. Caroline, Chief Business Development, is also excited about training more field agents. These field agents will visit hard to reach areas in Cameroon where solar home systems can make a big difference in people’s everyday lives.
Powered by people
This was my first trip to Cameroon, as well as my first trip to Africa. I am impressed by upOwa’s passion and professionalism. The team is truly devoted to improving people's lives, just like Lendahand is. I remember talking to Jules, Commercial Manager. Jules has worked for beer manufacturer Guinness but chose to work here to contribute to his own country. Cheers!
->Curious to see the impact a solar home system can have on families? Check out the second part of this story.
->Excited to contribute to clean energy as well? Visit our project page to see if you can invest in a project.