Mali-based solar panel equipment company sees potential in expanding through servicing business clients in the region.
  • SolarX, a West African renewable energy equipment provider, raised its first round of capital this year. 
  • About 57% of the continent’s population does not have access to reliable electricity, which creates obstacles for everyday life and commercial business activities. 
  • The solar panel industry is growing in Africa.

Karim Ghammache, the chief executive officer of SolarX, knows how much Africa needs power. Originally from Lebanon, he’s lived in Mali since the age of 5, watching people struggle with getting access to electricity to engage in everyday activities like charging their mobile phones or running a business.

More than half of the continent’s population, about 600 million people, live without access to reliable power, says the International Energy Agency.

Now Ghammache and his Malian co-founder Simballa Sylla are in a position to bring electrons to the masses. Their startup, which leases solar panel technology to businesses, raised its first round of capital this year in May through the private equity firm Energy Access Ventures based in Nairobi, Kenya.

“It’s an amazing adventure that we are starting,” Ghammache told Karma.

Ghammache declined to disclose the amount he raised. But his six-man shop already has deals lined up to provide equipment to several clients, such as a mattress maker and the private TV company Mali Vision. He hopes to expand his business in all of French-speaking West Africa, which includes several countries such as Burkina Faso.

Solar companies are proliferating on the continent, with many leasing equipment directly to households.

SolarX is exclusively targeting businesses and sees a potential to scale up its operations by acquiring large mining sector clients. For example, Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest metals and mining company, is active in West Africa. 

Many enterprises on the continent rely on expensive backup generators that run on fossil fuels to power their operations. Ghammache says his company can offer a less costly and more reliable solution than generators.

SolarX analyzes clients’ energy needs and their creditworthiness, then leases them renewable energy equipment. The company installs and maintains solar panels made in Singapore and German-made inverters, equipment that converts the direct current power from solar panels into an alternative electricity stream that can be used in homes and businesses.

After the leasing period ends, the clients own the hardware, but SolarX guarantees the equipment stays in working order for 25 years.

The solar panels also come with software that allows SolarX as well as the end-user to monitor their energy consumption. SolarX aims to install 40 megawatts of solar power in the next three to four years.

“There is huge market potential in all the mining industry, the agriculture farms and the hospitals,” said Ghammache. “Everybody needs energy and it’s not available.”