“How to electrify Africa”, 9 August 2012

Chris Baker-Brian (Founding Partner & Director of R&D) and Mahmoud Ashmawy (Partner & Director of Commercial Partnerships) presented their company ‘Bboxx’. Their objective is to be a “provider of integrated technology, consulting and transformation services dedicated” to “electrify Africa”. The company was found by Chris and other colleagues from Imperial College, London. Chris and Mahmoud gave a very inspiring presentation and showed strong belief in the goals and objectives they are aiming for, a social company, helping people in developing countries and giving a bit back to people who are not able to enjoy the comfort of modern life.

Bboxx is a for-profit spin-off from a charity at Imperial College, London, e.quinox, which developed innovative methods of distributing renewable energy to the bottom of the pyramid in developing countries. It sells portable solar kits and various other products that can produce electricity for homes in developing countries, that are currently not connected to a power line or have a very unstable power connection. Currently they are targeting Nigeria, having already established franchise operations throughout much of Central and East Africa. It is estimated that there are more than 1.4 billion people left without electricity and Nigeria alone is a country with a market opportunity of about 800 million dollars.

The products are produced in China and are sold through franchisees in the supported countries. However, Bboxx do not only sell their products to their franchisees, they also teach them how to sell and support the products. It is their aim to make the people think differently about the usage of fuel. So far Bboxx have sold more than 6,000 solar kits in seven countries around the world and set up many franchises ($50,000 initial investment, including $30,000 starting stock).

Although Bboxx is a social enterprise and does not make a huge profit, it faces a lot of difficulties selling its products to people in developing countries. A person with an average income in Nigeria for example earns just about $70 a month and is most likely not in the position to buy such a product. Bboxx are trying to solve this problem by starting to work with banks in these countries and arrange micro-loans for these people to allow them to finance the purchase of their products.

We were all greatly inspired by the brilliant talk given by Chris and Mahmoud and we all think it is a wonderful thing to give to people who really are in need of electricity to live in our modern society and with Bboxx they are getting one step closer.

Report by Tim Kertscher – BBE First Year Student