French energy giant acquires stake at Kenya’s irrigation start-up Sunculture

The EDF Group, a French electric utility company and a global leader in low-carbon energy is acquiring convertible bonds interest in the Kenyan start-up SunCulture,a technology company that designs and sells affordable solar-powered water pumps and customised irrigation systems, bundled with on-going support for small-holder farmers.

SunCulture’s flagship product “RainMaker” – an innovative Internet-connected solar water pump – is smart, mobile, easy to use and helps save water and fertiliser.

Specifically designed for small-scale farming households, this system is a low-carbon alternative to motor-driven petrol pumps or manually operated pumps. RainMaker is designed to help smallholder farmers in underserved communities improve productivity and profitability.

EDF will support SunCulture in the large-scale rollout of its solution in Kenya. Additionally, it will support the company’s endeavours in West Africa. In the longer term, EDF intends to support SunCulture by becoming its leading industrial shareholder. To this end, EDF has invested in convertible bonds issued by SunCulture.

EDF will provide SunCulture with hands-on experience in the sale and installation of off-grid solutions designed for residential customers, as well as with its knowledge of Central and West African markets.

Samir Ibrahim, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, SunCulture noted that,  “EDFs commitment to partnering with local companies to create lasting impact represents an important shift in the way multinationals are doing business in Africa. We’re excited about this partnership, which gives us the opportunity to work with EDF to increase rural household productivity across the continent.”

SunCulture will also benefit from EDF’s technical R&D expertise in the off-grid sector, where EDF will oversee its design choices and help to enhance product performance. EDF will also set up financing schemes in order to help farmers finance these solar-powered pumping systems.

With this agreement, EDF is expanding its off-grid range and gaining a foothold in another high-potential market segment. At present, 60% of Africa’s arable land has not been farmed, and only 6% is currently irrigated.

EDF builds on the expertise of its people, its R&D and engineering skills, its experience as a leading industry operator and the attentive support of its customers – to deliver competitive solutions that successfully reconcile economic growth with climate protection.

At the same time, EDF is signing a partnership agreement with the pan-African organisation Energy Generation, which is working to provide electricity to rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) – by delivering entrepreneurship training to young people, with a focus on the energy sector. The agreement signed with EDF covers a training programme called “Woman and Solar Entrepreneurship”, which aims to train women in the installation and maintenance of off-grid solar-powered kits as well as in other aspects relating to entrepreneurship in this field.

Thanks to its experience in the rollout of off-grid solutions, EDF will help to design these training courses. Energy Generation will be responsible for the delivery of this training at training centres specifically geared towards the energy sector. Upon completion of the programme’s initial phase by late 2019, approximately 100 women in Togo, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana – will have undergone this training.

Founded in 2016 in Lomé (Togo) by the young humanitarian Astria Fataki, Energy Generation is already partnering EDF as part of the EDF Pulse in Africa competition – with the aim of identifying and supporting innovative African talents. The overriding objective is to boost the continent’s energy growth.

Senior Executive Vice-President in charge of the International Division said, “These two new partnership agreements reflect the spirit in which EDF is expanding its business in Africa: working alongside local players and always doing its utmost to ensure that our projects benefit the economic fabric of those countries where the Group is active. Following the large-scale commercial roll-out of Zeci and the recent launch of Zegha, we are now getting ready to expand our off-grid range to other segments, starting with that of small-scale farmers.”

Astria Fataki, President of Energy Generation said, “We are particularly pleased to have signed this partnership agreement with EDF, which is totally aligned with our goals and vision. Thanks to this training programme, around one hundred women in Togo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire will acquire the skills required for a future career that will provide them with better economic prospects. More importantly, they will also be trained to play an active role in their country’s energy transition.”

Source: African Strategic-Ventures (ASV) & The Exchange.