About the issuer
IMPORTANT NOTE: high risk product - direct loan to a renewable energy product distribution company. No local financial institution in between to cover risks.
Issuer: upOwa SAS
Maturity: 24 months, semi-annually and linearly amortizing
Interest rate: 6,25% p.a.
This is a direct loan to a company and therefore it is recommendable that you are careful with the amount you will invest.
Information document issuer (download here)
InRisc: credit analysis write up (download here)
upOwa distributes innovative solar solutions on a rent-to-own basis, enabling rural families and micro-entrepreneurs without electricity access to purchase high-quality solar home systems (SHS) with a flexible “pay-as-you-go” (PAYG) payment plan. With technology innovation in its DNA, upOwa developed its own management software platform tailored to best serve customers and secure reimbursement of their credits in the most cost-effective manner.
Founded in 2014, upOwa has a bold stretch goal: make solar energy available to millions of households now living in the dark in Cameroon and beyond across Central Africa. Since initial marketing launch mid-2016, partnering with the 3 main operators of mobile money transfers in Cameroon turned this dream into reality for more than 9 000 beneficiaries to date. upOwa attracted 1 million EUR of equity earlier this year and we are now aiming to raise working capital to scale up at a fast pace to 50 000 beneficiaries in the next 12 months, to more than a million within 5 years.
upOwa plans to order 950 SHS with the EUR 150K of this campaign, including 600 low-range SHS (3 lamps + phone charger) and 350 high-end SHS (including TVs). The unit price of a low-range SHS is EUR 74, the unit price of a high-range SHS is EUR 290.
upOwa’s entry-level offer is a solar home system composed of a solar panel, a control unit that includes a long-lasting lithium battery, a universal cellphone charger and 3 ceiling lamps. All products distributed by upOwa come from suppliers who have passed demanding Quality tests and therefore each SHS comes with a comforting 2-year warranty. Our mid-level offer is an upgrade from the entry-level offer that allows for additional appliances such as an additional ceiling light, a radio and a torch.
As most clients can’t afford to pay upfront for the full value of their SHS, upOwa allows for a repayment scheme over 18 months initiated by a first deposit that corresponds to approximately 10% of the full value to be repaid. The following payments are flexible in order to meet customers’ fluctuant cash reserves: the more cash available wired, the longer the period before next payment is due.
At the time of installation, upOwa field agents will train the users on how to make the most of their solar home system in a way that maximises its lifetime. During the repayment period, upOwa is able to keep track of reimbursements thanks to uWIP, its tailored management platform. In our call center, operators pro-actively assist and train clients to both well understand the pay-as-you-go mechanism and anticipate maturity dates, which allows for a very low default rate. If at some point a deadline is overpassed, the solar home system will be locked and the appliances will shut down until a new payment is received. Once the total amount has been paid, our client becomes owner of its solar system and can opt for another, eventually more powerful, solar home system in order to further upgrade is family quality of life but still in an affordable way.
About 90% of our clients do not have access to electricity before using the solar home system upOwa offers. Most of our clients are families living off-the-grid in rural Cameroon, where the day ends at about 6pm for all those who live without electricity because the daylight is gone and most activities turn very hard or hazardous to perform in the dark –if feasible at all.
Thanks to the 950 solar home systems this campaign will allow to distribute, the life of about 5000 people will radically change overnight because they will then be able to simply turn the switch on at 6pm and instantly get a bright, reliable, clean flux of light at their place:
- Children will study and improve their results at school;
- Mothers will cook and take care of children with reduced risks of hazards;
- Entrepreneurs will keep their shop open a few hours more and increase revenues;
- The security at home will increase because light scares off burglars and animals;
- Everyone at home will avoid breathing kerosene lamps toxic fumes and get rid of associated diseases (eg respiratory and/or vision troubles)
- The direct natural environment of beneficiaries will save substantial amounts of CO2 emissions resulting from the fossil fuels burnt in lamps or diesel generators.
In addition, we realised that families living off-the-grid in rural Cameroon use an average of 4 cellphones per household. Those are out of battery most of the time, which forces users to travel a few hours to the next town at least once a week in order to recharge batteries. Thanks to the solar home system universal plug, phone charging can take place at home anytime which allows users to save both a lot of time and a lot of money.
It is true that one could find solar home systems in specialized retail stores located in major cities of Cameroon (far from the countryside), though such solar home system will then be either very expensive and sold cash (without the pay-as-you-go scheme upOwa offers) or very cheap and sold without warranty (which upOwa offers based on its Quality testing expertise). For these reasons, competitive offers only reach a tiny number of people, and allow for very limited sustainable impact on beneficiaries. In contrast, upOwa’s business model has been shaped to tackle the challenges of (i) last mile distribution, (ii) customer’s satisfaction and (iii) affordability of energy access.
Last but not least, the company growth itself will create more than 500 qualified, empowering jobs in the next 3 years which, we hope, will indirectly boost overall the local economy of rural Cameroon.
Additional information on upOwa
The founders believe decentralized energy production through a sustainable micro-infrastructure empowers isolated people worldwide to get a grip on their future. They also believe that electricity is the most empowering energy that off-grid communities thrive for and which can be produced in an environmental-friendly way thanks to renewable sources, and distributed at an affordable price thanks to digital innovation.
Therefore, as a first step towards a future where isolated people becomes energy self-sufficient in the developing world, upOwa develops and brings sustainable, affordable solar solutions to off-the-grid communities in Cameroon. Let’s power people now!
upOwa is a social business that develops and brings the most adapted energy solutions to isolated communities and businesses in the developing world, at an affordable price.
We believe technology innovation is a key enabler of (social, ecological and economical) sustainable growth for our company as well as for the communities we serve. Therefore upOwa has lead intensive technology benchmarks to select the few suppliers of SHS who have achieved innovative products tailored to fit the market needs, and runs internal software development programs to equip its employees with a unique management platform tailored to fit their duties needs.
With a triple bottom line in mind, the company will relentlessly grow to reach 3 bold global objectives in 5 years from now:
- Social impact: 1 million beneficiaries
- Economic impact: 1000 direct jobs created
- Ecological impact: 2000 tons of CO2 saved
Team in Cameroon
Loïc Descamps (COO)
With more than a 20-year experience in Europe and Africa, Loïc has gained solid background in business development, general management and commercial and marketing management in various sectors (distribution, retail, telecom/ICT, banking). Designing, implementing and executing successful operational plans and initiatives that drive significant revenue growth and competitive market positioning in a cost-efficient manner is what he does best! He is an accomplished multilingual communicator with excellent negotiation skills, with a proven track record of forging strong business relationships and motivating multinational teams to meet and surpass demanding performance goals. Also highly qualified with an on-going MBA, an Executive Management Masters and a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, Loïc recently joined upOwa as Chief Operating Officer (COO) based in Cameroon.
Julie Mercier (Operations Deputy)
After working in a consulting company for French utilities clients, Julie was recruited as deputy chief operations officer. Passionate about the issues of access to energy for all and its impacts on social and economic development, she assists the COO in ensuring operating efficiency and is on the lookout for continuous improvement.
Lambert Alama (Sales Director)
After more than 11 years of experience in Distribution and Sales leadership in various activity sectors and various regions in Cameroon, Lambert recently joined upOwa to bring a deep knowledge of rural areas and field operations best practices. With his sales managers, they continuously challenge internal methods and daily manage sales teams to achieve sustainable ramping up sales in rural communities. Lambert holds a social science master, in addition to education in the distribution and sales sector.
Guy Noutam (Technical Manager)
Guy worked several years as an electronic engineer for various missions in the fields of rural electrification or electronic security. Through his experiences and thanks to his passion for renewable energy, Guy gathered the set of skills and the knowledge required to be upOwa’s technical manager. The social impact of upOwa in rural communities is the main drivers for Guy, who runs a team of 10+ technicians dedicated to the rural distribution of our solutions.
Marcel Balebata (Call Center Director)
A graduate in Business and Operational marketing from the Institute Superior Siantou in Yaounde, Marcel has gained a wide experience in the areas of e-consultancy, telesales and sales support on the Cameroonian and French market. He joined the upOwa team with the ambition to be the most efficient link between customers, prospects and the company.
Pascal Tchuente (Administration and Financial Manager)
With more than 15 years of extensive experience in various positions of the accounting and finance management field, from junior accountant and storekeeper to senior administration and finance manager, Pascal brings an excellent mastery of Cameroonian good practices. He holds a masters degree in Accounting and Finance and joined upOwa recently as the Administrative and Financial Manager in Cameroon.
Thierry Lacmago (HR Manager)
With more than 8 years of experience with responsibilities in the field of human equity, Thierry works hard to maximize employees motivation as well as to make sure the company does fulfill all its obligations as far as HR management is concerned. His dynamism and his driving force behind proposals make him a key player in the management team. He holds a masters degree in HR and Strategy Management.
Brunehilde Carniel-Perrin (Methods Manager)
After working for 3 years for a British manufacturing company as Continuous improvement program leader, Brunehilde wanted to use her knowledge to help communities improve their quality of life. By joining upOwa as methods manager, she helps ensure that operations run smoothly, so as to provide a better and more efficient service to the customers.
Rodrigue Njounsop (Software Development Manager)
Passionate about software development and computer graphics, Rodrigue studied electrical engineering before developing his passion for software engineering at the African Institute of Computer Science in Cameroon. Rodrigue thinks everyone should have access to energy, thus he decided to develop applications that will affect the field of renewable energy in his country.
Patricia Sandeu (Training Director)Previously in charge of designing and implementing new training programs for more than 5 years in SMEs before joining upOwa, Patricia is passionate about energy-related social issues and driving change across the entire organization. Because a successful company is made of successful people, she strongly believes in upOwa’s skill transfer mission and associated professional training center, the "Up'Academy". She holds a masters degree in HR management.
Team in France
Kilien de Renty (CEO)
Kilien has launched this project after 3 years, of which two in the US, working as a Marketing Engineer and Business Developer for the “Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives” (CEA) in the field of new technologies for energy and communication. His former experience as a Market Analyst at Engie and his past community commitments as volunteer firefighter and scoutmaster paved the way to the creation of an impactful company that tackles a major business opportunity in the Energy sector. He holds a Master Degree in Engineering, Grenoble INP (France)
Caroline Frontigny (BD Director)
Co‐founder of upOwa, Caroline worked in the French embassy in the US before joining the World Bank as a Development Analyst for 4 years. She is in charge of Business Development and partnerships at a corporate level, and is also deeply involved to support operations development. She holds a Master Degree in Engineering, Supélec (France)
Thomas Muguet (CIO)
Thomas runs the Information Systems and Software Engineering teams at upOwa. Software enthusiast for more than fifteen years, he has a wide experience of project management and software development from the engineering industry. He graduated from Ensimag, Grenoble Institute of Technology and has a M.S. in Advanced Information Systems & Software Engineering.
Highlights or Awards
- Green Startup Challenge winner (2iE)
- 2015 PEPITE Grand National Entrepreneurship Award (French Government)
- “French Tech Bourse” award (BPI France)
- African Social Venture Prize (Orange)
- Pulse award (EDF)
- “Investissements d’avenir” Renewable Energy Innovation Awardee (ADEME)
- Energy Access Challenge award (ENEA)
- Mobile Money Operators: Orange Money, MTN Money, Express Union
- Suppliers: GLP, Amped Innovation, Fosera, Omnivoltaic
- Distribution Network: Total