Decentralization and Solar: Blockchain as a Pathway to Infrastructure Development
Solar power projects are one of the biggest opportunities for investment in Africa. With more than 600 million Africans living without electricity, there’s a clear need. But there isn’t a clear path. Even though Africa is the most sun-rich continent in the world and pricing on new electricity generation is reaching record lows, limited financing and lack of government support have stood in the way of development. This gridlock has been a challenge for overseas investors and developers to crack.
Access’s Solution: How We’re Solving this Problem
Since 2014, the team behind Access has been building decentralized financial infrastructure, off-blockchain, in Ghana and Senegal by joining forces with on-the-ground agents who are already banking communities. In 2016, we launched Atlas, a simple mobile banking app, by partnering with local, on-the-ground banking agents. Through a network of 500 banking agents, we’ve scaled our weekly active user base to 30,000 people who trust us for financial services.
In 2018, we recognized an opportunity to expand upon our early market adoption. Using blockchain, we’re building an ecosystem called Access Network for investors and developers around the world to reach users in West Africa and beyond.
Access will make it possible for overseas contributors to offer micro-loans to users, among other financial services. These same financial pathways, on blockchain, make it possible to invest in infrastructure development, such as solar. Decentralization makes it possible for parties to team up, without middlemen or third parties.
Through Access’s ecosystem, communities will be able to take solar development into their own hands. And ultimately, reap the rewards.
Perspectives on the Ground: Why Blockchain?
Our thesis is one that aligns with a recent study from PwC and the World Economic Forum — that blockchain “enables the transfer of assets among parties securely and inexpensively without third-party intermediaries.”
While blockchain technology is new to Africa, its premise isn’t. Smart contracts capture basic human decision-making, creating a degree of trust and transparency into resources. Tokenization brings liquidity and assigns value to assets that include solar panels.
- The token is the mechanism for people to be investing and crowdfunding the solar event
- Through a ledger-based system, contributions can be collected, distributed, and traced while minimizing trust in human actors
- Blockchain gives investors transparency and traceability into solar supply chains
- Smart contracts enable the expansion of token economies into new areas of adoption.
Human Considerations: the Need for Co-Ownership
In many African rural and urban communities, users face high electricity costs for sub-par and unreliable service. From clean manufacturing operations to solar farms and data centers, demand for new infrastructure is strong. But coordination is the biggest problem. Even when a big initiative gets started, lack of trust may cause it to fall apart. There’s always a fear that people are taking advantage of others. As a result, many entities struggle to move initiatives forward.
Co-ownership models avoid this gridlock, altogether. It ensures that as users pay for the use of the service, they’re also on a path towards owning their own stable, dependable infrastructure. Consider the story of Meki, for instance, a local mayor in Senegal. Meki has lived in his community for a long time and receives widespread trust. If he’s spearheading a project, people feel good about it and are willing to put in work. His vision? He wants to build a clean data center that is solar-powered and built by women.
Investment from overseas will only work in partnership with community leaders like Meki. On the flip side, Meki needs overseas investment to execute on his vision. Co-ownership, powered by blockchain, is the mechanism for getting solar initiatives off-the-ground.
Join Us: We’re expanding Solar Partnerships
Access is seeking qualified partners and investors who are interested in running contained solar pilots– forming local partnerships with contractors and assessing maintenance costs and payback periods.
Please contact email@example.com if you are interested in participating, advising, or partnering.
Join Our Journey
We’re spearheading a financial revolution, with key backers and partners. Become a part of the movement today:
This work was a collaboration between the entire Access Network team, ranging from the CEO to CTO, COO, Chief of Staff, and other members of leadership. Emily Burchill, Shannon Wu, Ritika Puri, and Karissa Domondon created this story.
The opinions expressed are those of the authors and are no guarantee of the future performance of any Access Network fund or service. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice. Access Network is currently unlaunched and has not announced a token generation event. Blog posts are intended to provide education about the business model and its path to development, only.