Business

Grant call open for innovators to harness clean energy to improve incomes and climate resilience in Africa


NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 2 – An open call to innovators, out today, is offering a share of €3.6million to help scale start-ups which support people and the planet.

This is the first of three rounds of funding planned through Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities (PREO), with over €8m in grants available over the next four years to support innovative, renewable energy-based projects, improving livelihoods and aiding job creation.

The initial open call will concentrate on businesses focusing on Africa with future rounds expanding PREO’s geographic reach to Asia and the Indo-Pacific regions.

To be eligible, applicants must be piloting a new, or pivoting an existing business model and be able to demonstrate the viability of a solution that focuses on the productive use of renewable energy, with the grants used to scale these business models and innovations.

Priority sectors include agro-processing, cooling, solar irrigation, e-waste recycling, textile production, e-mobility, education, healthcare, ICT and street lighting.

PREO’s overall mission is to help businesses harness clean energy to improve incomes, build climate resilience and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Since the programme’s inception in 2019, it has successfully awarded over €6.3m in grant funding to 34 projects across 11 sub-Saharan African countries, leading to the creation of 467 full and part time jobs.

Alongside grant funding, the programme has also provided technical assistance to a further 20 companies through dedicated sector specialists and will continue to provide this alongside the new round of grants.

Jono West, Director of Partnerships at Mobile Power, a company that received a PREO grant to help scale up its off-grid electric vehicle services.

He said, “PREO’s funding and technical support was invaluable to undertaking those early field trials. This enabled us to iterate the technology and business model. As a result, we have developed a business model that is attractive to taxi riders growing our rental numbers to over 500,000 every month and 2,000 new customers every week.”

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Contributing to PREO’s impact is Ashden-award-winning enterprise SokoFresh, which provides farm level cold storage-as-a-service, coupled with a digital access-to-market platform to integrate small and medium scale farmers into commercial-scale supply chains.

PREO-funded SokoFresh’s first two cold hubs for horticulture, and subsequent expansion into fishing.

The Kenyan company has demonstrated a 27% reduction in post-harvest losses and generated 13 jobs as a result of this project.

Jon Lane, Associate Director at the Carbon Trust, leads the delivery of the programme.

He said, “PREO has been extremely effective over the past four years, providing a real boost for African innovators focused on accelerating the productive use of renewable energy. Seeing the impact that PREO-supported projects have made in increasing job creation and reducing emissions is inspiring and sets the tone for more success in this next phase.  Further funding from the IKEA Foundation alongside the existing commitment from UK aid via the Transforming Energy Access platform demonstrates this value and a commitment to future innovators and we are excited to be expanding our focus to Asia and the Indo-Pacific in the coming phase.”

Innovators can use PREO grant funding for activities including covering the upfront capital costs of initial field units, operational expenses, building capacities, and designing information systems.

As a result, the innovators have the potential to successfully demonstrate positive unit-economics, refine and improve their business model, and gather critical business data needed to back up the business plan and attract sufficient commercial capital that would otherwise materialise far more slowly.

Across the 34 projects supported so far, a total of €26m in public and private follow-on capital has been raised.

For example, Roam, a Kenya-based e-mobility company has gone on to secure significant further funding.

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In 2021, during its PREO project, Roam closed a $7.5m (USD) funding round, the largest ever for an African electric mobility start-up, as well as opening an electric motorcycle assembly plant in Nairobi.

The company was also  a finalist in the 2022 prestigious Earthshot prize and is named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential companies for its efforts towards electrifying transport in Africa.

Since 2019, PREO has been supported by the IKEA Foundation and UK aid via the Transforming Energy Access platform and delivered by the Carbon Trust and Mercy Corps Energy 4 Impact.

The IKEA Foundation has committed a further €7.2m alongside the existing £5m commitment from the UK Government via the Transforming Energy Access platform to PREO for another four years, with additional calls planned for 2024 and 2025.

Jolanda van Ginkel, Programme Manager Renewable Energy at IKEA Foundation commented, “PREO is supporting companies across Africa to test, build and replicate renewable energy solutions that deliver results for people and the planet. The IKEA Foundation is proud to support the programme and welcomes today’s open call to sub-Saharan African innovators. We look forward to its expansion to Asia and the Indo-Pacific in coming rounds.”

Interested innovators should visit the PREO website to download the full application pack.





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