Talking points: Solar home system company aims for utopia in Cameroon
“Let’s power people now” is the tag line of solar home system company upOwa based in Cameroon – it’s a message that expresses a sense of urgency to connect rural communities to a sustainable and affordable source of clean power. In the second instalment of the Talking Points interview series, brought to you by Camco Clean Energy and ESI Africa, we talk to Caroline Frontigny, co-founder of this Cameroon-based solar home system developer.
Caroline, at the time you co-founded upOwa in 2014 you were working as a private sector development analyst for the World Bank Group, where you were helping to identify bottlenecks and good practices in electricity access in Africa, among other places. What prompted you to take the leap into the private sector yourself? Coming from the regulatory side of international institutions, I wanted to have a more direct impact on the population and be the one to actually install electricity at people’s places. With the knowledge of emerging new practices for electricity access such as pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar home systems (SHS), I was eager to try it on the ground and to experience the day-to-day reality of operators.
I was also keen for an adventure, which I’ve had my share of since moving from Washington DC to Bafoussam, a mid-size city in rural Cameroon with intermittent access to water and internet! To connect people’s homes to electricity for the first time and to experience the joy of the community has been life-changing and confirmed for me that I made a good choice. Cameroon’s SHS sector was in the nascent stages of development in 2014. How has the market developed since then not just in Cameroon but in West and Central Africa as a whole? What do you feel are the key challenges that are still preventing the sector from scaling up?
Click on the link below for full report