New finance platform to support indigenous off-grid solar companies in Africa

(Press release) VentureBuilder, which is focused on scaling African-owned and managed off-grid solar enterprises, launched today in advance of the Unlocking Solar Capital Africa conference with support from the DOEN Foundation, Facebook, Shell Foundation, and USAID.

Mandated with expanding energy access to underserved populations in Africa, VentureBuilder’s launch will enable it to pioneer a new investment model that provides ‘patient’ early-stage capital to its local partners across Africa, combined with a specialized suite of technical expertise that will accelerate each partner’s path to scale.

Over 100 million African households lack access to modern electricity services, typically spending considerable sums on stopgap lighting via kerosene, candles, and dry-cell batteries, and relying on costly and inconvenient charging services to power mobile phones. VentureBuilder will tackle this challenge, helping indigenous distributors grow into high-impact solar companies that deliver modern, affordable, and reliable electricity. VentureBuilder will focus on three key areas to close the electricity access gap:

  1. Partnering with existing local African distribution enterprises that cater to rural underserved communities.
  2. Investing the much-needed ‘patient’ capital alongside Enterprise Development Services to enable entrepreneurs to scale their business.
  3. Rigorous tracking of key metrics associated with business performance and social impact.

“As Africa’s off-grid solar revolution has evolved, many industry insiders have recognized the need to empower a new generation of local enterprises,” said Dan Murphy, Managing Director of VentureBuilder. “We’re excited to partner with these local businesses and provide them with the human and financial resources they need to sustainably and profitably scale their impact”.

VentureBuilder has been co-developed by Catalyst Off-Grid Advisors and Open Capital Advisors since 2017, leveraging both companies’ decades of experience in building, advising, and financing off-grid solar companies. The development phase was made possible with support from Facebook, who also committed additional financing alongside the DOEN Foundation, Shell Foundation, and USAID for the implementation phase.

“The DOEN Foundation has supported dozens of energy access initiatives over the years. We believe VentureBuilder can be a gamechanger in supporting and scaling indigenous enterprises across Africa, in areas most in need,” according to Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation.

Sam Parker, the Director of the Shell Foundation added, “Research shows that achieving SDG7 requires an additional 300+ companies to deliver energy services to millions of consumers in sub-Saharan Africa. Supporting local entrepreneurs with established distribution networks to expand into household solar energy services represents a vital delivery mechanism and we are excited to support VentureBuilder to demonstrate this in practice.”



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