Telecoms provider MTN and local distributor Fenix are rolling out a prepaid solar power scheme in Uganda.
Similar to pre-paid airtime, the ReadyPay scheme will allow consumers to buy pay-as-you-go power, from one day’s worth to a month.
A US$16 deposit buys several lights and a phone charger, which customers pay 40 cents a day to use.
Medard Muganzi of the Rural Electrification Agency said: “Domestic uses for typical households of ours where the requirement is basically lighting, phone charging, playing small radios – solar would be the best option for such a household.
“It is a utility, but a utility of solar installations.”
Uganda has an electrification rate of seven per cent, one of the lowest in Africa.
The population is spread out meaning that expanding the power grid outside major towns is expensive.
Medard Muganzi of the Rural Electrification Agency said: “The costs per connection for the grid is an average of between US$2,000 and US$3,000.
“In other countries you find these costs can be as low as US$700 or US$800.
“You’re talking about three times, four times the actual cost of distribution because people are just scattered.”
This is why solar systems like ReadyPay are a key part of the national electrification plan, Mr Muganzi said.
They can provide power in hard-to-reach areas, and in the long run they are cheaper than the grid for most Ugandans, he said.
Fenix will roll out the ReadyPay across the country within the next few months.