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Finance & Innovation

How People in Scotland Are Crowdfunding Solar Energy Projects in Africa

Why Global Citizens Should Care 
Access to electricity helps boost progress towards the UN’s Global Goal 7, which works to ensure that energy is clean and affordable for everyone. The number of people choosing to put their money where their ethics are and support sustainable development is so encouraging when there's so much progress to make. Join the movement by taking action here to help achieve the Global Goals and end extreme poverty by 2030.  

A platform that crowdfunds finance for clean energy projects in Africa has been boosted by investments from over 200 people in Scotland, as enthusiasm for climate solutions ramps up ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow later this year. 

The main goal of the platform, called Energise Africa, is to support solar energy resources in sub-Saharan Africa and improve access to electricity. 

Since it started in 2017 it's helped over 450,000 people in Africa to ditch toxic kerosine — also known as paraffin — as an energy source, and start using sustainable, affordable solar energy instead. That has in turn helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 100,000 tonnes.    

So far, £15 million has been invested through the platform, including £11.3 million through crowdfunding. In 70% of projects, the UK has provided match funding through its aid budget, to encourage UK investors to join the campaign. 

The platform can be supported by anyone with a starting investment of as little as £50 in a specific project, which they can the potentially earn up to 7% interest on. 

Funding like this is known as impact investing — essentially meaning financially investing in something that will have a positive impact. But unlike donating to charity, doing so might see the investor earn or lose money, as they might with any other type of financial investment.  

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A billion people around the world live their daily lives without electricity, according to the World Bank — and over 600 million of these people live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Lack of access to electricity can severely limit small businesses, as well as making it harder for children to play or do homework after dark — and represents a huge barrier to making progress on the UN’s Global Goals. 

So the installation of solar panels can be life-changing for that reason – giving shops, homes, and schools energy to keep functioning.  

“My wife and I are passionate about green energy and installed solar power in our own home in 2013,” Rob Kay, an Energise Africa investor based in Kilsyth, Scotland, said in a statement about the project published by the UK's Department for International Development (DfID). 

He added: “When I came across Energise Africa, it seemed like the perfect way to tackle climate change, help lift African communities out of fuel poverty, and earn interest on a bit of surplus cash.”   

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Kay said he was particularly interested one of the companies being funded through the platform, called Azuri – which provides power to family homes.

“I liked the thought of helping parents and their children, and the project had the added benefit of getting match funding by UK aid, helping my investment go further," he said.

The UK's International Development Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: "UK aid is helping people in Africa use more solar energy, which ultimately will benefit us all in creating a cleaner planet. People across Scotland are playing a crucial role in this transition.”  

This year is a really critical year for the UK to be showing global leadership on climate action — as, in November, all eyes will be on Glasgow as it steps up to host the annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).