This article was contributed to TechCabal by Seth Onyango via bird story agency.
M-KOPA is finally rolling out its pilot operations in South Africa five months after it secured over $250 million of debt and equity to fund its expansion across Africa.
The company, which pioneered a pay-as-you-go model for solar panels and smartphones in East Africa, will partner with local retailers and distributors to offer its suite of smart products to low-income households in the vibrant township.
Recently, the firm sought a sales executive through postings on Glassdoor and Beebee, as it looks to bolster its drive in Soweto.
Last year, Jesse Moore, M-KOPA CEO and Co-founder said the firm would expand to more markets across Africa and scale to over 10 million customers in the next few years.
South Africa thus represents M-KOPA’s fourth-largest market, following Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana, where the company has enjoyed relative success with a diverse range of consumers.
In Soweto, M-KOPA aims to replicate its Kenyan success in a market often disrupted by power outages due to load-shedding.
Despite these challenges, South Africa’s dynamic and varied economy offers a new frontier for M-KOPA.
Choosing to start in Soweto is seen as a strategic move, given the township’s similarity to the markets where M-KOPA has previously thrived. The area’s demographics, mainly low to middle-income households, align well with M-KOPA’s product range.
According to tech analyst, Martin Macharia, the entry into the South African market is a natural pivot.
“The country, despite its economic strides, grapples with challenges such as frequent power outages and a significant portion of the population still living without regular access to important amenities,” he noted.
“M-KOPA’s innovative solutions, therefore, which have seen great success in Kenya and to some extent Nigeria, are poised to offer much-needed relief in these areas. By partnering with local retailers and distributors, M-KOPA is not only contributing to the economy but also embedding itself within the community, ensuring that its solutions are tailored to meet the specific needs of the South African consumer.”
M-KOPA’s products include smartphones, electric motorcycles and solar power systems, which customers can pay for in small instalments over time, using their mobile phones. The products are embedded with credit through a smart digital connection, giving customers instant ownership and access to essential services.
As of March 2022, it had reached 2 million customers across four African markets, with the latest funding haul setting it on course to become the dominant player in that space, possibly a unicorn.