Azuri, First Bank merges on off-grid solar supply MWorld FEATURES, NEWS Azuri Technologies Limited has partnered First Bank of Nigeria, to produce next generation power to off-grid consumers in Nigeria. The partnership is required to give rural customers modern financial and digital services while also enabling access to financial services, irrespective of the power challenges experienced at any point in time. While announcing the partnership that will bring Pay-As-You-Go home solar products to millions of Nigerians, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Azuri Technologies, Simon Bransfield-Garth, said low rates of electrification, with sub-Saharan Africa ranking among the poorest in the world, have been a major obstacle to the continent’s economic growth and development prospects. According to him, the scale of Nigeria’s grid electricity deficit is daunting, maintaining that the lack of reliable power limits local development and modernisation, forcing people to rely on expensive, harmful fuels and alternatives. He said by partnering with First Bank, it would be extending the reach of solar power while also making it easier for rural consumers to access and pay for new services. In his words, “Although many of Azuri’s customers are on a low income, they are still spending a large amount of money on the alternatives. The cost of energy for people who do not have access to the grid is enormous and solar power can provide energy at a much lower cost and with a more reliable service.” He stated that the potential benefits from powering Nigeria’s distributed and informal economy are substantial; stressing that solar is already bringing reliable, clean power to millions and in the process is helping households increase productivity and family incomes. According to him, more than 100 million Nigerians do not have access to electricity, maintaining that Azuri has been successfully delivering solar power solutions to off-grid communities across Sub-saharan Africa since 2012. He added that the combined power of Azuri and First Bank will ensure that rural off-grid communities are able to access and benefit from affordable, clean energy and solar based services. “In Nigeria over the last 18 months alone, Azuri has delivered more than 20,000 solar home lighting systems with the backing of the Nigerian government,” he said. He said under the partnership, Azuri’s solar home TV product will be co-marketed and pay-as-you-go solar customers will be able to make regular top-ups for their solar via First Bank’s Firstmonie agent network or direct from their mobile devices. “Firstmonie agents are positioned within rural and semi-urban locations across the country and provide basic financial services such as account opening, cash deposit, cash withdrawals and bill payment,” he said. The Deputy Managing Director, First Bank, Gbenga Shobo, represented by the Group Executive, Retail Banking Group, Lagos and West, Tunde Owolabi, said financial inclusion is a priority to the bank, saying the partnership would avail its customers opportunity to access wide range of services that addresses real problems such as access to power. “We are very excited about this partnership because it will bring about energy inclusion, financial inclusion and technology inclusion. If we have all of this, the trend of urban migration might be reduced,” he added.