More than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa — nearly half the continent’s population — live off electrical grids. Yet tackling the problem has been challenged in part by financial institutions’ maintaining a high bar for lending to clean energy ventures in the region. 

U.K.-based Energise Africa believes it has an answer, one that also boosts use of clean, solar-powered systems. Energise Africa helps retail investors buy bonds issued by solar companies in Kenya, Tanzania and other countries where electricity is lacking. Participating requires a $62 investment, and the company says on its website that returns have been in the 5% to 7% range. 

  • Energise Africa has been partially funded by U.K. government agency Department of International Development
  • It claims a network of more than 1,800 investors. They have invested more than $11 million in 60 projects, which have helped more than 350,000 people gain access to clean power. 
  • The group represents a partnership between Ethex, a U.K.-based ethical investment company, and Dutch crowdfunding platform Lendahand. It has received money from Virgin Unite, the nonprofit foundation of billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, Swiss-based Good Energies Foundation, and P4G.
  • Offers a small guarantee covering investments up to about $120 but only for first-time investors. But it does not offer protection above that amount or guarantee returns.
  • Karma Takeaway: Founded in 2017, Energise Africa’s arrival dovetails with a heightened interest in boosting access to electricity on the continent and in clean energy initiatives. Promises of 5%-7% returns, while less than historic stock market returns, may draw investors who want to mix profits with doing good.