SA off-grid power startup Twerly recognised by CauseTech initiative


South African startup Twerly, which has produced a self-powered, off-grid street light, has been recognised by global innovation community CauseTech, which crowdsources social impact technology to advance the work of UNICEF in remote areas of the world.

Disrupt Africa reported in June CauseTech had launched its first contest, an initiative of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network, looking for renewable energy solutions for Burundi, the most energy-poor country in the world.

The challenge will run until August 31 and aims to find sustainable renewable energy solutions to electrify rural Burundi. The winner will be announced at the annual Base-of-Pyramids Convention in Mexico City, with Twerly one of the solutions looking to be tested in the field in Burundi and potentially scaled across regions.

Twerly’s street lighting system can be outfitted to include LED lighting, video surveillance, Wi-Fi connectivity and home appliance battery power charging, and can also be networked to a control center for 7×24 virtual monitoring and maintenance.

The startup has completed the research and development phase of development and is now focusing on ramping up production in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, according to chief executive officer (CEO) Nikolas Jankovich-Bésán.

It has the support of the SABLE Accelerator, a Silicon Valley-based network of South Africans providing domain expertise, mentoring, marketing support, resources and networking to promising South African business ventures looking to scale globally.

The startup sees a range of opportunities for its products, with the global market for off-grid green lighting technology likely to be worth around US$14 billion by 2025.

Jankovich-Bésán said Twerly’s hidden technologies and potential as a “Lego-style” modular platform for problem-solving applications made it stand out in the renewable energy field. The startup plans to open an office and manufacturing facility in the United States (US) within the next two years, but is first seeking partnerships with government to solve critical needs in South Africa.

“We are keen to partner with government and we are ready to manufacture,” he said.

“For instance, with any new low-income housing project or rural RDP development, we can work out a cost-effective grid with the town planners. With LED technology, you’re getting much more light than existing halogen or vacuum light solutions. And municipal managers have already expressed great interest in how each unit could provide micro-enterprise and connectivity opportunities for job creation.”


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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