The price of small solar systems in East Africa has fallen rapidly over the past decade, but US$70 for a two-light system is still too high for most off-grid households to pay upfront. It would be affordable for many more people with suitable financing to spread the cost, but microfinance isn’t always appropriate or available to fill this gap.
UK technology company Eight19 came up with an innovative way to spread the cost of a solar system: the Indigo pay-as-you-go solar home system that is activated by weekly scratchcard payments. The team spun out Azuri Technologies in August 2012 to promote Indigo in emerging markets.
Ben West is the co-founder and CEO of EcoZoom: a for-profit, certified B Corp, social venture company selling affordable wood and charcoal-fueled, highly efficient cookstoves in developing countries. EcoZoom works to empower local workforces, economies and women while creating financially sustainable markets and connecting themselves to all parts of the value chain. The company has 15 staff, and offices in Portland, Oregon and Nairobi, Kenya. To date, the company has sold more than 90,000 units to 14 countries, with key projects in 5 countries.
Before founding EcoZoom with co-founders Amanda West and Phil Ferranto, Ben managed the complete turnaround of the social venture company StoveTec. Ben earned an MBA from the University of Oregon, and before attending graduate school, Ben ran a US$20m account with 6 office staff and 150 truck drivers within the US$1bn company, US Xpress. Ben and his team have just finished setting up their offices in Kenya, where he currently lives with co-founders Amanda and Phil.