UAE’s solar power start-up Pawame secures $2.5m in funding

UAE-based off-grid solar energy start-up Pawame secured $2.5 million in grants and equity, with plans for a $5m early stage funding round as it bids to bring electricity into more households in Africa.

The social impact enterprise (pronounced Power Me) raised $1.7m in grant commitments and $750,000 in equity, including $250,000 from pan-African fund Launch Africa Ventures, it said in a statement on Sunday.

The planned $5m Series A round will fund its expansion initially into Kenya and eventually other African countries as it equips homes in remote areas with affordable and clean solar energy, Pawame’s chief executive Maurice Parets said.

“Energy is just the beginning. Supplanting dirty kerosene lamps, our solar products help protect as well as change the lives of off-grid families,” Mr Parets said. “The funds from our Series A equity round will allow us to accelerate our growth by delivering a broader array of life-changing products to more families.”

International organisations such as the World Bank have urged governments around the world to build more sustainable and equitable economies after the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted existing inequalities. Climate change activists have also ramped up the pressure on policymakers, regulators, corporations and banks to accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon economy.

Pawame aims to bring electricity to the homes of 580 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, or more than half of the region’s population, that do not have access to power. The company distributes, finances and provides after-sales support for residential solar home systems using a rent-to-own, pay-as-you-go business model.

“Despite facing challenges during the pandemic, Pawame delivered exceptional results in 2020, including achieving bottom-line profitability and positive cashflow for the first time,” Alexandre Allegue, chairman and co-founder of Pawame, said without providing figures.

Pawame said it is “on target” for its expansion within and beyond Kenya, with the Series A fund raising set to further accelerate its growth.

The five grants worth $1.7m came from entities including the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, Energy and Environment Partnership, the Dutch development organisation SNV, AECF REACT Kenya and the flagship World Bank-funded Kenya Off-Grid Solar Access Project (KOSAP), the company said.

The grants will help to accelerate Pawame’s product development pipeline – funding pilots for new products like solar water pumps and solar refrigerators – and financing market activation initiatives in Kakuma and Kalobeyei refugee camps in Kenya.

Pawame’s current investors are mainly based in the Gulf and include senior executives from the region’s largest power utility companies as well as Launch Africa Ventures, it said.

“Our thesis for investing into Pawame is simple: without electricity or connectivity, individuals are excluded from the exponential growth that an increasingly digital world has to offer,” Baljinder Sharma, director at Launch Africa Ventures, said.