CIDR Pamiga is keen to use its funds to invest in the share capital of promising companies, helping them scale up and maximize their impact on development in different countries. It works with Orb Energy, an Indian company specializing in solar energy, helping it to roll out its activities in Africa.
“I came across Orb Energy at a renewable energy event in Thailand,”
recalls Renée Chao-Béroff, CIDR Pamiga Managing Director.
“Damian Miller, its founder, was describing his company’s approach: a network of decentralized franchises offering a wide range of services relating to solar panels, including promotion, installations, repairs and after-sales services. It’s an approach that builds trust in the product. I felt it was extremely relevant and that we had the same needs in Africa, because people aren’t very familiar with the product and a network of this kind would help to reassure them.”
In 2014, when Orb Energy set up in Kenya in order to replicate its model in east Africa, forging a relationship with CIDR Pamiga was a logical step. Actors in the field help to pair the company with local MFIs and banks.
Core challenge: access to energy for SMEs
Africa already boasts a wide choice of household solar kits. “It’s not a market where a new arrival will make a difference,” underlines Renée Chao-Béroff. “We’re focusing almost all our projects on providing small and medium-size companies with access to renewable energy.” It’s a strategy Orb Energy endorsed immediately.
At the time, CIDR Pamiga was also thinking about how to help companies supplying goods and services to scale up.
“Access to solar energy will become more widespread if we can fund the growth of companies offering solutions in this sector,” says Renée Chao-Béroff.
This is why, in 2017, CIDR Pamiga decided to acquire a stake in Orb Energy Africa, alongside a major Dutch public investor. “Our investment is tiny compared to theirs, but we’re also contributing our knowledge of the market and the needs of Africa’s businesses,” she explains.
“Solar energy will play a vital role”
“The impact on local economic development could well be considerable. Africa can’t remain simply a commodity producer, there has to be processing too so that added value remains in countries and jobs are created. This needs companies and factories. I believe that solar energy will play a vital role in this process.“
Orb Energy Kenya has seen its revenues increase twofold in two years. It predicts very strong growth over the next five years with business centring on SMEs. The company is also preparing to organize a third round of capital-raising, and to enter new markets in other African countries.
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