Two of Europe’s leading online impact investing platforms have launched a new African initiative, putting solar energy systems in the homes of over 110,00 families.
The socially engaged online investment platforms Lendahand and Ethex have announced the start of a new joint enterprise, Energise Africa, with support from UK aid by the Department of International Development and Virgin Unite.
The new initiative aims to allow eligible UK investors to put money towards African solar businesses providing energy systems, with investments starting at £50. In return, they project a 4-6 per cent return for investors, as well as the potential for tax-free returns through holding investments in Innovative Finance ISAs.
The move comes after Lendahand was awarded its Europe-wide MiFID licence late last year, and Ethex became a partner of Big Society Capital’s £10 Crowd Match Fund. As Lendahand Ethex Ltd, the two European platforms retain an investor base of over 13,500 investors, and a track record of raising a combined £70 million+ for social enterprises, charities and businesses since 2013.
Around 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa do not currently have access to electricity, limiting their ability to improve their quality of life or chances of economic success. The main objective of Energise Africa is to accelerate the progress of the UN Global Goal 7, which aims to ensure universal access to sustainable, reliable and affordable energy by 2030.
Eligible UK retail investors involved in the initiative will be lending money to solar businesses working with Energise Africa, with some projects also benefitting from match funding. Once an EA project is fully funded, the capital is transferred to the businesses and interest on the investment will start to build as businesses buy systems to install in local homes.
Families will pay for their new solar energy systems through a 1 to 2-year ‘Pay-as-you-go’ financing plan, owning the system outright once all payments have been made. Equally, investors will receive interest and capital repayments from their chosen business on their investments every six months.
"We’re extremely pleased to have formally launched Energise Africa, and we’re delighted to see that during the 8-week pilot phase we have already raised more than £450,000 of investment from more than 150 investors," said Danny Den Hartog, managing director at Lendahand Ethex Ltd.
"With 19.5 million people in the UK already involved or wanting to get involved in making sure their savings and investments have impact – Energise Africa provides a straightforward way to do this, especially as investments that fall within the £20,000 allowance per tax year can potentially earn tax free returns."
Lending their support to the initiative, Rosanne Gray, managing director of Virgin Unite said they are "delighted" to be working on Energise Africa: "This project will have significant impact in delivering improved energy access, and therefore improved livelihoods, to many families in sub-Saharan Africa."