Tanzania Start Ups
Solaris Offgrid (Solaris Tanzania)
Founded in March 2015, Solaris Offgrid operates through Solaris Tanzania designing and manufacturing pay-as-you-go (‘PAYG’) solutions to provide affordable and sustainable energy access in the country’s off-grid regions. The company offers scalable energy to rural households and businesses via modular solar systems paid for through mobile payments thus increasing affordability. By empowering rural households with sustainable clean energy, technology and appliances, Solaris improves their quality of life by providing solutions to seemingly mundane issues such as phone charging and clean lighting. The core benefit for businesses in rural areas is the greater ability to generate new income streams; affordable to them by cheap access to sustainable energy. Solaris tackles issues beyond simply providing energy by, for example, cutting the use of kerosene lamps which emit toxic fumes, limiting CO2 emissions and providing rural children with the means to study more after dark, an opportunity for them to perform better in school. Whilst, solar energy is widely accepted to be an excellent solution to energy provision in Africa, accessibility is an issue, with set up costs being beyond the reach of most. True to their integrated approach to support sustainable and profitable off-grid energy ventures, Solaris Offgrid has partnered with multiple hardware manufacturers to integrate with their PAYG platform (PaygOps) allowing customers to access solar energy with a realistic potential to scale-up. The company also provides strategic and technical support as well as their own hardware. Solaris have a network of shops to reach customers and build awareness besides providing a base for their local operations. Aside from being a point of contact for maintenance, the network provides installation and usage training for customers. Solaris Offgrid has been getting positive coverage for their innovation and will continue to do so as they expand and acquire more field partners.
Since this young fintech startup’s birth not long ago, NALA Money (‘NALA’) has already developed into an innovative force in Tanzania’s mobile money market. Whilst in beta, NALA had over 40,000 Tanzanians already signed up before its public launch in April 2018. The mobile application “facilitates native, in-app payments and purchases via Airtel Money, Halo Pesa, Tigo Pesa, TTCL Pesa and Vodacom M-Pesa”. Above all, NALA’s secure mobile app is a remarkable testament to the great extent user-centred design can take a system. Replacing the text based USSD interface, NALA is essentially a graphical user ‘interface that sits on top of mobile money’ and remedies some of the shortfalls of the current USSD system by providing visibility and speed. The app works offline and thus provides the benefits of a simple graphical interface without compromising mobile money’s non-dependence on internet connectivity; working at seven times the speed of USSD. Benjamin Fernandes, the CEO and co-founder of NALA, in an interview, has elaborated on the importance user-centred design played in their emergence. Many mobile users are now using multiple SIM cards and NALA equally can host multiple SIM cards and track all transactions across different cards. The app consolidates information on fees and intricacies related to Tanzania’s interoperable mobile money system making it easier for users to manage their finances. NALA also uses blockchain technology to log and store transactional records and to facilitate cross-network transactions providing assurance of their transactional integrity. NALA has broken ground in East Africa and plans to become a major digital bank proper.
Founded in early 2017, Emakatt Laundry is a pioneering on-demand laundry service in Dar es Salaam operating via the web and a mobile application. Users can request for their clothes to be picked up anywhere and anytime to be taken for laundry and/or to the dry cleaners and delivered back in less than 48 hours. Breaking into the on-demand laundry business anywhere can be a very expensive proposition if one is to invest in washing machines and delivery vehicles. Founder and CEO of Emakatt, Rogers Katuma found a way past this potential entry-barrier by partnering with a network of dry cleaners, hotels and transporters. This set up allows the company to cut down on operating costs and provide an affordable service to clients. A client is charged based on the clothes intended for laundry with each piece of clothing having its own price, ranging from TZS 490 for a tie to TZS 12 890 for an evening dress (October 2018). The concept of on-demand laundry is new to Tanzania, so Emakatt has had to concurrently build the demand and supply sides of their business. More funds for marketing will be required if the company is to achieve their aspirations to expand to other cities in Tanzania and furthermore beyond the country.