upOwa, Cameroon

PAYG solar home systems project to connect one million people in Cameroon to clean electricity for the first time, with nearly 140,000 already connected.

Approximately one million people in Cameroon are expected to gain access to clean electricity for the first time through this ambitious pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar home systems (SHS) initiative.

A successful EUR 3m capital raise in 2019 – including EUR 1.3m equity financing from REPP – enabled developer upOwa SAS to embark on a rapid expansion phase that has resulted in nearly 28,000 active units as of 31 March 2023. The units have connected nearly 140,000 people, as well as 325 micro-businesses and more than 80 critical services such as schools, clinics, hospitals and water pumping stations, to electricity for the first time.

upOwa provides systems to off-grid households using a lease-to-own model. Customers pay a deposit and then make monthly payments on a mobile phone money platform with targeted repayment periods of 18-24 months. Customers can choose between a 6Wp lights and phone charging-only system, a 10Wp system with a radio, or a 40Wp to 50Wp system that provides additional power for other appliances, such as TVs with variable screen size.

The company is the largest business implementing PAYG for SHS at scale in Cameroon – a country where just one in five rural homes is connected to the grid, and where there is a strong and urgent need for off-grid solutions. Despite low levels of energy access, more than 70% of homes in Cameroon have mobile phones, making the payment system broadly accessible.

upOwa has set its sights on rapid growth, using the experience of its in-house technical teams and reputation for reliability and customer service to build capacity and scale up activities. Around 200 staff and commission-based agents currently work for upOwa, although this is expected to increase as the company grows.

In October 2020, REPP increased its investment in upOwa with a EUR 500,000 convertible loan, bringing the total committed to date to EUR 1.8 million.

Other investors behind the project include French family-owned impact investment company Colam Impact, which has made both an equity investment and a convertible loan. The company secured debt from ElectriFI, Lendahand, BPI and, most recently, a mezzanine facility from Energy Entrepreneurs Growth Fund (EEGF).

Related articles:

  • Read our Talking Points interview with upOwa co-founder Caroline Frontigny here.
Funding structure

Initial funding:

Contracted date: 10 September 2019

Lending type: Equity

REPP funding: EUR 1.3m


Additional funding:

Contracted date: 28 September 2020

Lending type: Convertible loan

REPP funding: EUR 500,000

Following on from the series A2 that closed in 2019 and demonstrated a ramp-up of operations in the months that followed, we welcome this new equity-like joint investment from shareholders. The funding will ensure that the company will increase its market footprint and impact in Cameroon, as well as strengthen the capitalisation level thus paving the way for leveraged funding.
- Kilien de Renty, CEO and co-founder, upOwa