FMO, SYMBIOTICS & ZOLA announce new funding

FMO, SYMBIOTICS & ZOLA announce new funding

FMO, SYMBIOTICS and ZOLA Electric  announce new USD 32.5 million facility for ZOLA Tanzania’s expansion.

Amsterdam, Netherlands (December 10th, 2018) -- ZOLA Electric (“ZOLA”), formerly Off Grid Electric; FMO, the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank; and Symbiotics, a leading investment firm specialized in emerging, sustainable and inclusive finance,  today announced a USD 32.5 million facility to finance the growth of ZOLA’s Tanzania operations over the next 5 years.

FMO is the lead arranger in the financing package that will grow ZOLA Electric’s service delivery in Tanzania, helping an additional 145,500 households to access energy in areas with no grid infrastructure. The investment is also expected to create around 2,100 new jobs in off-grid solar. ZOLA currently powers more than 1,000,000 customers across 5 countries and employs more than 1,000 people.

2.2 billion people still don’t have access to reliable or affordable energy.  ZOLA Electric and other energy access companies play a critical role in delivering clean, affordable, reliable energy without the need for grid infrastructure. Reliable electricity is transformative. It boosts economic productivity, expands opportunities for work and study, drives positive social, health and environmental outcomes and improves overall quality of life.

Despite the rapid growth of ZOLA Electric’s sector, there is still significant unmet need and untapped potential. There is growing recognition of the potential for distributed renewable energy to disrupt power supply and the sector is attracting significant investment interest.

Bill Lenihan, Co-CEO, ZOLA Electric:

“We are excited to announce this new investment from FMO and Symbiotics. It will allow us to connect more people in Tanzania, support the communities in which we operate and continue the development of our industry-leading power systems.”

Chris Wurdemann, Vice President of Corporate Finance, ZOLA Electric:

“ZOLA’s technologically advanced product offering and innovative business model have attracted an incredible group of strategic and capital partners. FMO and Symbiotics join a roster of strategic and capital partners that is the strongest in the industry, including Tesla, Total, EDF, DBL Partners, Helios Investment Partners, GE Ventures and SunFunder.”

Rosemarijn van der Meij, Fund manager of the Access to Energy Fund (AEF), managed by FMO:

“The off-grid sector is developing fast and receiving increased attention from investors but is still perceived as high risk; few players have reached profitability. ZOLA Electric Tanzania has a dedicated and professional management team and is well on the way on its path towards profitability. This transaction fits FMO’s inclusive business and green strategy as well as the core theme in the strategy of the Access to Energy Fund: providing access to energy for the unreached rural communities.”

Next to the current financing, FMO provided Technical Assistance to ZOLA, to put a credit scoring system in place. The FMO-arranged senior loan will consist of USD 5 million from the Access to Energy Fund (AEF), which catalyses the investment of USD 12.5 million from FMO-A and USD 15 million from Symbiotics. The tenor of the loan is five years. ZOLA Electric borrows the money in its local currency, the Tanzanian shilling.

Vivek Pradhan, Head of Market Innovation, Symbiotics:

"As an existing provider of debt financing to ZOLA since 2017, we are excited to grow our partnership with one of the earliest leaders of the effort to electrify Sub-Saharan Africa through affordable solar power. Symbiotics will continue to support the provision of accessible clean energy to under-electrified households, businesses, and communities in emerging markets.”

About FMO

FMO is the Dutch development bank. As a leading impact investor, FMO supports sustainable private sector growth in developing countries and emerging markets by investing in ambitious projects and entrepreneurs. FMO believes that a strong private sector leads to economic and social development, and has a more than 45-year proven track-record of empowering people to employ their skills and improve their quality of life. FMO focuses on three sectors that have high development impact: financial institutions, energy, and agribusiness, food & water. With a committed portfolio of EUR 9.2 billion spanning over 90 countries, FMO is one of the larger bilateral private sector developments banks globally.  

For more information: please visit

About Symbiotics

Symbiotics is the leading market access platform for impact investing. Over the past decade, the company has originated and structured nearly 3600 investment transactions, worth more than USD 4.6 billion, on behalf of 412 companies in 81 emerging and frontier markets, all serving a measurable sustainable and inclusive finance objective, purchased by 50 different investment funds and institutional investors. Symbiotics is a registered asset manager in Switzerland, a registered investment adviser in the United Kingdom, and has further office presence in Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore and South Africa, regrouping more than 140 employees worldwide.

About ZOLA Electric

ZOLA Electric (formerly Off Grid Electric) is the leading renewable energy brand in Africa, helping customers to light their homes, power small businesses, stay connected and expand opportunities for work and study. By providing solar technology that is affordable, accessible and reliable, ZOLA Electric’s offerings allow the average home or business to leapfrog the grid. ZOLA Electric designs renewable energy solutions based on the latest in solar, battery and power electronics technology. Adaptable to energy need and income, ZOLA Electric’s solar systems can be bought over time using PAYGo micro-finance leasing and mobile money payments. ZOLA Electric powers more than 180,000 homes and businesses across Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, and Ghana. ZOLA Electric is a recipient of the  UN Momentum for Change Award, the Zayed Future Energy Prize and is a member of the Global Cleantech 100.

ZOLA Electric announces expansion to Nigeria


ZOLA Electric announces expansion to Nigeria

ZOLA Electric has announced a Global Climate Action Summit pledge to launch its PAYGo Solar in Nigeria - to expand clean energy access and displace the negative climate and health effects of fossil fuel powered generators in Africa's most populous country.

Nigeria is a rapidly expanding economic powerhouse, however its electrical grid is unable to meet its citizens’ basic energy demands. Power from the grid is unreliable and expensive and this has driven more than 100 million Nigerians to rely on diesel generators to power their basic energy needs in their homes or apartments. ZOLA’s initial target is to deliver clean energy access to 1 million households and businesses in Nigeria over the next three years.  

ZOLA’s expansion will allow Nigerian consumers to access cost effective solar + storage systems as alternatives to diesel generators. ZOLA’s energy access model combines PAYGo micro-finance leasing and mobile money payments to offer solar + storage for a monthly price that is less than the average energy outlay on diesel generators in Nigeria.

In 2019, ZOLA Electric will expand its PAYGo distributed solar energy model and launch an affordable renewable energy alternative available to Nigerians. ZOLA’s target is to deliver clean energy access to 1 million households and businesses in Nigeria over the next three years. This ambitious expansion is focussed on delivering Global Climate Action Summit goals of energy access and driving the transition to clean renewable energy.

“Our objective, and expectation, at ZOLA is to displace fossil fuel generation through cost, convenience and carbon emission superiority”

Bill Lenihan, Co-CEO at ZOLA Electric.

ZOLA’s expansion will allow Nigerian consumers to access solar energy and storage for a monthly price that is less than the average energy outlay on diesel generators. By combining PAYGo micro-finance leasing and mobile money payments, ZOLA’s energy access model is adaptable to energy need and income and promotes financial inclusion.

The first few watts start a chain reaction that enables people to achieve commonly held aspirations: security, education and access to information. Energy access is a key precursor for the economic and educational empowerment of women and girls. Reliable solar energy can help Nigerians to light their homes, power small businesses and stay connected by harnessing the clean, renewable power of the sun.

“A major component of addressing global climate change is the imperative to transition the continent with the fastest growing population - Africa - to clean energy, and we are excited for ZOLA Electric to bring its comprehensive PAYGo solar approach to Nigeria”

Nancy Pfund, Managing Partner and Founder, DBL Partners.


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Off Grid Electric and EDF team up in offering a new off-grid solar power solution for rural areas in West Africa

  First large-scale operational partnership between a global energy company and a leading off-grid solar company.

  Off Grid Electric’s experience in Tanzania and EDF’s experience in South Africa shows that households using these services have reduced emissions from kerosene and black carbon by 1.45 kg per year.

Wednesday 9th November 2016: Off Grid Electric, a leading distributed solar company in Africa, and EDF, a global leader in low-carbon energies, today announced a partnership to supply competitive off-grid solar energy in Africa. This partnership will take the initial form of a joint venture ZECI in Ivory Coast, announced on the occasion of the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP) held by the United Nations in Marrakech, Morocco. This first joint venture aims to supply power to nearly 2 million people in Ivory Coast by year 2020, with plans to rapidly extend the partnership’s initiatives to other countries in the region.

Within the scope of this joint venture, ZECI, EDF and Off Grid Electric will install and maintain solar kits for rural and peri-urban households1. These individual kits include solar panels, which are easy to install, along with batteries for storing energy. Payment can be made through the simple use of a mobile phone. Customers will therefore have access to lighting and will be able to power a suite of energy-efficient household appliances including television sets, radios, fans and mobile phone chargers.

Rolling out this initiative in West Africa will create thousands of new sustainable jobs (over 1000 jobs in Ivory Coast alone), from sales managers to call-centre employees, who will benefit from Off Grid Electric and EDF in-house training. Giving customers the option to use a renewable energy source like solar energy also benefits the environment by replacing candles, paraffin, and kerosene.

We’re thrilled to partner with EDF, an industry leader whose presence in Africa, combined with its experience, will enable us to grow Off Grid Electric’s footprint across the continent,” said Bill Lenihan, President and CFO, Off Grid Electric. “Access to reliable energy is a challenge throughout Africa and our partnership with EDF will help us to meet this challenge. Through energy independence, we hope to see households and communities seize new opportunities.”

Off Grid Electric is the perfect partner for EDF, with its excellent knowledge of the African continent and a proven track record of providing innovative and competitive solar solutions,said Simone Rossi, EDF Group Senior Executive Vice President, International Division

He also stressed that “EDF is delighted to partner with Off Grid Electric, thus enabling the latter to benefit from the Group’s extensive expertise in the area of customer relations. This will be an opportunity for us to share the experience we have gathered from supplying energy to more than 30 million customers worldwide, to the advantage of new customers in West Africa.”

Off Grid Electric will be receiving the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change 2016 Award at COP22. The Momentum for Change initiative is spearheaded by the UN Climate Change secretariat to shine a light on some of the most innovative, scalable and replicable examples of what people are doing to address climate change. 


Off Grid Electric Press Contact

Karen Navarre

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Power for Entrepreneurs

Off Grid Electric CEO Xavier Helgesen speaks at President Obama's 7th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Off Grid Electric CEO Xavier Helgesen speaks at President Obama's 7th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Last week, two of our founders simultaneously took the stages at President Obama’s 7th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Palo Alto and Africa Energy Forum in London to discuss our evolving sector. It was an exciting moment to be among so many impressive entrepreneurs, innovators, and industry leaders from around the world.

But the truth is, we’re surrounded by inspiring entrepreneurs through our work every day. Our customers are constantly building businesses whether it be a small farm, local shop or phone charging station. 

Grace is able to keep her shop open at night with solar, dramatically increasing her earnings

Grace is able to keep her shop open at night with solar, dramatically increasing her earnings

That’s why, on Wednesday our CEO Xavier announced the launch of Kazi na Zola (“Work with Zola” in Swahili), a new full suite of solar appliances designed to help rural entrepreneurs create successful businesses and generate income.

We know that nearly 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, and the electrification rate can be as low as 14.2% in rural areas. It’s one of the biggest obstacles to entrepreneurs growing their businesses in the region. With Kazi na Zola, a “business in a box” solution, local self- starters the tools they need to run their businesses – whether a barbershop, charging shop, bar, or restaurant – completely on solar.

You can read more about our announcement in this Forbes story and this piece on NPR. Xavier also penned a Medium post on the power of energy to combat poverty.


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Press Release - OGE announces $45M debt financing deal

Off Grid Electric announces $45 million debt financing for distributed solar leasing to African households, raising a total of $70 million in investment this year


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – December 17, 2015 – Off Grid Electric today announced an investment vehicle to finance more than $45 million in distributed solar and battery storage for African households and small businesses. This is the first financing vehicle of its kind for distributed solar in Africa and a critical milestone in the creation of a new asset class of institutional and impact investment.


Off Grid Electric, based in San Francisco, California and Arusha, Tanzania, is currently installing solar in over 10,000 new homes and businesses per month. The financing vehicle makes it possible for the company to provide its radically affordable solar leasing platform to one million customers in Tanzania living on as little as $1 per day.


The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Ceniarth, Calvert Foundation and other family offices will lend up to $40 million to the vehicle. U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Development Innovation Ventures program will support the facility with a $5 million grant, its third round of tiered funding


“We have pioneered a business model that allows consumers with no formal credit to use their existing energy budget to finance solar. We simply redirect funds they were already paying for kerosene and batteries to a solar lease payment,” said Xavier Helgesen, co-founder and CEO of Off Grid Electric. “This fund provides the template for any country in Africa to offer affordable solar energy to every citizen in their country.”


“After spending last week at COP21 for the signing of the historic Paris Agreement, I am thrilled to announce this new type of financing that will help Africa grow into a fossil fuel free continent,” said Bill Lenihan, CFO and Head of Business Operations of Off Grid Electric. “The commitments made in Paris require huge capital investments and this new facility is a significant step forward in bringing clean energy access to the off grid world." 


Off Grid Electric has a partnership with the national government and Tanzanian Investment Centre to power one million households with solar in the next three years. Juliet Kairuki, Executive Director of the Tanzania Investment Centre, said, "As an avid promoter of technology and innovation through investment, Tanzania Investment Centre is pleased that through the Off Grid investment initiative, technology has been introduced to the country that will offer pioneering and sustainable clean energy to power homes.”


This announcements follows Off Grid Electric’s recent $25 million Series C equity round, led by DBL Partners, which was the largest venture capital round to-date for distributed energy in Africa. In total, Off Grid has raised $70 million in equity and debt financing in 2015 to support its vision of lighting Africa in a decade.


Media Contact:

Kimberly Schreiber


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Africa's Brightest Decade

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Africa's Brightest Decade

Africa is in the midst of an energy revolution. We are halfway through a decade that may hold the fastest energy shift in human history: mass market adoption of solar in Africa.

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