Pay As You Go Solar Home Systems in Zambia: Socio-technical transitions towards transformative change

This abstract is from a previous field research placement that saw an MSc student from Edinburgh University work with Zambian SME Vitalite during Summer 2016 to conduct field research for their MSc dissertation. 

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Globally, between 1.2 and 1.5 billion people lack access to electricity

Over half this number, around 620 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa. This is despite the fact that electrification has been shown to have a profoundly positive impact on many human development outcomes. Due to the geographic, economic and political remoteness of many unelectrified populations, it seems unlikely that a conventional ‘universal copper grid’ will provide them with access in the near future. However, trends in the mobile communications and photovoltaic industries have successfully been harnessed to bring distributed solar generation to over 500,000 households in sub-Saharan Africa, creating transformative change. This has been enabled by innovative distribution models developed by mobile network operators (MNOs), and the rise of mobile money, which allows households to pay for solar equipment in regular micro-instalments. The organisations distributing and operating these Pay As You Go Solar Home Systems are primarily based in East Africa.

This study investigates the potential for their success to be replicated in Zambia, through research conducted with Vitalite, a company pioneering the technology in Zambia. The study employs a socio-technical transitions lens to analyse data collected from early PAYG SHS adopters in Zambia, others who could benefit from the system, and company staff.

Read Joe’s MSc Dissertation

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