Conversations at the Skoll World Forum

An Interview Between +SocialGood’s Shariha Khalid Erichsen and Victoria Arch of Angaza

Global changemakers gathered in University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School to exchange ideas, entrepreneurial approaches and innovative solutions to address the world’s most pressing challenges. +SocialGood Connector and Managing Partner at Mission & Co., Shariha Khalid Erichsen reported from the forum to discuss the emerging themes, solutions and how we can collaborate to shape interventions and dialogue.

In this interview, Shariha speaks with Victoria Arch, the Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Angaza, an organisation that has created an accessible, affordable, Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) financing mechanism to get solar and clean energy products into households with the greatest need. Angaza’s PAYG platform enables even the smallest, most remote, last-mile distributors to offer affordable financing to their customers on an ever-expanding portfolio of life-changing products in more than 30 countries.

Meet Victoria Arch:

Victoria is a clean energy and sustainability specialist. She learned the intricacies of environmental science and policy while pursuing a B.S. in Earth Systems at Stanford University. She also completed a Ph.D. at UCLA during which she authored 12 peer-reviewed publications, won a university award for Outstanding Graduate Research, and received competitive grants from National Geographic, National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. During her dissertation fieldwork in rural Southeast Asia, Victoria fully recognized the intimate relationship between energy poverty and environmental degradation. As a result, she focused on applying her systems science background toward projects with immediate social and environmental impact. With Angaza, she has the opportunity to demonstrate that smart, scalable technology can greatly benefit both people and planet.

*Note: Interview edited lightly for clarity

Shariha: Victoria, Congratulations on winning the Skoll Award for your work at Angaza. Can you tell me a bit about yourself, Angaza and how you are using technology to deliver impact?

Victoria: Thank you so much for talking to me. My name is Tori and I am the Co-founder and COO of Angaza. I have been with the company since its founding, for about six and half years now. I work on the business side, so I work with sales and marketing, business intelligence, and operations to make sure the company is running as smoothly as possible between our two offices, in San Francisco and Nairobi. Angaza is using technology in a few different ways. We are a pay-as-you-go platform provider, primarily for solar products in solar emerging markets. We work with two groups. We work with manufacturers of solar products and help them integrate a pay-as-you-go sub-circuit into their products.

This makes those products switch-on, meter and automatically deactivate according to pre-payment from a customer that’s purchasing that product over time. We also work with distributors of those products. We provide them with the software platform that helps them manage their sale of the pay-as-you-go products in real time. It helps them collect customer data, review portfolio analytics, and send out automatic communications to their customers.

In other words, it helps deliver these products on a financed basis at scale. Our technology is really designed to help enable the sale of products on a financed basis in last mile environments where there are language barriers, very little technological and communication infrastructure, lack of wifi and so on. All our tools help distributors overcome these barriers to deliver these life-changing productseffectively.

Shariha: That is really great. If you look at the space you are working in, clean energy, renewable energy, access to electricity, these are things that are addressing basic human needs. What do you think is the potential to replicate your type of work around the world? You are very much focussed now in Africa, but there is huge potential to scale and replicate it globally.

Victoria: Yes, absolutely. While our primary focus has been Africa, we now have active distribution partnerships in over 30 countries. What we are seeing is that this model is easily replicable across the world, in all remote areas where you have sales agents and distributors interested in delivering clean energy technology to people who typically have been very very hard to reach. The availability of cloud storage technology has made it possible for us to scale our model and make it work at the global level.

We can now host our technology primarily in the cloud and contextualise and localise it to new geographies. All of this can happen as a result of being able to host our technology in the cloud.

Shariha: Let’s talk about the pay-as-you-go model that you use that gives the financial flexibility to the end users, would you be bringing in other layers to that as you grow your reach? Now with the awards also, would you be looking at providing financial products such as savings for customers?

Victoria: Yes, definitely. I think what we are seeing is that end consumers begin to save money from purchasing clean energy on micro-payments that lead towards the final ownership of the product, as opposed to spending money on kerosene which is extremely expensive. They are then able to put those savings towards additional electrification items or appliances, even towards things like clean cookstoves and other livelihood products.

We are really seeing this initial step into clean energy as a catapult into being able to experience a lot of the trappings of the modern lifestyle that we often take so much for granted in the western world. That is what we are looking forward to. Our company’s mission is to provide access to life changing products to people anywhere in the world. And definition of life-changing products incorporates so many things beyond mere solar electrification.

I think for people who are interested and looking at going into social entrepreneurship, energy and technology, there is so much opportunity now. Be it the internet or other communication platforms, the technological tools we have access to are making it so much more possible to deliver life-changing products and life-changing services on a global scale.

Shariha: Thank you so much, Victoria.

For more on Angaza’s work, you can follow them on Twitter @angazadesign and Facebook @angazadesign.

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A global community of changemakers united around a shared vision for a better world in 2030. A project of the UN Foundation in support of the United Nations.