Mobile for Energy Access

The mobile industry is playing a crucial role in striving towards Sustainable Development Goal 7: universal energy access by 2030. It is providing new pathways to address the urgent needs of the 1.2 billion people who still live without energy, a condition seriously hindering their economic and social development.

For this reason, our Mobile for Development Utilities programme is launching the Mobile for Energy Access initiative. The initiative seeks to illustrate how innovative mobile operators and service providers are unlocking new models to deliver energy to underserved consumers and thereby encourage all players in the ecosystem to bring their expertise and infrastructure to bear on this issue. By leveraging the size and reach of the mobile industry, including its distribution channels, mobile payments and other technologies, these models are overcoming critical barriers to energy access such as affordability, last mile distribution and payment collection.

The Mobile for Energy Access initiative will be launched at GSMA Mobile 360 – Africa, taking place on 11 – 13 July 2017.  In Africa, a significant gap is emerging between access to mobile and energy, as the region experiences the world’s fastest growing mobile market coupled with the slow extension of an already limited energy grid. In fact, over 600 million people lack energy access in Sub-saharan Africa, representing roughly two in three individuals, yet 370 million of these indivuals are already covered by mobile networks and that number is expected to grow.

Mobile operators and service providers have already made important steps forward in leveraging the ubiquity of mobile to delivery energy to underserved consumers. This is most evident in East Africa, where the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar model was developed by leveraging mobile money, machine to machine (M2M) connectivity and other mobile assets. Reaching one million sales, PAYG solar solutions are providing clean and affordable energy to almost five million individuals in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, and the model is being replicated elsewhere. For this reason, Mobile 360 – Africa is the ideal place for us to launch this initiative and shed light on the potential of mobile as a catalyst for energy globally.

The keynote address by H.E. Samia Suluhu Hassan, Vice President of Tanzania will touch upon mobile technology’s potential for extending green energy in Africa. In our speaker sessions, we will hear from speakers on exactly how mobile has, and will continue to, advance energy access. Notable speakers include Strive Masiyiwa, CEO of Econet, and our first Mobile Operator Champion, Maarten Boute, Chariman of Digicel Haiti. If you are unable to attend the Mobile 360 – Africa event, you can see the GSMA Director General, Mats Granryd and Strive Maseewa sharing their thoughts on mobile as a tool for energy in a video that we will release shortly after.

Through our Mobile for Energy Access initiative, we will also be showcasing some of the key success stories of mobile-enabled energy. Look out for our first case study video, featuring our past grantee, Fenix International, and their partnership with MTN Uganda. This partnership has brought affordable and clean energy to 750,000 people in Uganda, and had important commercial benefits for MTN’s mobile money service and brand. We have also published a number of case studies on energy in Africa and Asia, including lessons from Mobisol in Rwanda, Lumos in Nigeria, PEG in Ghana, Kamworks in Cambodia and Easypaisa in Pakistan. New case studies from the second phase of our Innovation Fund will be published soon, and the Fund re-opens for new applicants on 31 July.

Finally, the campaign is calling for increased engagement by the mobile industry to help close the gap between access to mobile and to energy. We seek to demonstrate that there is a strong business case for operators to engage with innovative energy providers in order to grow new revenue streams and have more relevance in their customers’ everyday lives. Through our convening events, including our upcoming Mobile Operator Workshops, we encourage knowledge sharing amongst operators currently working in the energy sector, in order to overcome the challenges encountered in their journeys.

This initiative is currently funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and supported by the GSMA and its members.

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