Senegalese startup OniriQ has combined the traditional Solar Home System (SHS) with a set-top box to provide off-grid African populations with access to solar-powered digital services.
Founded in December 2016, and a winner of an energy challenge at the recent AfricArena conference in Cape Town, OniriQ doubles up access to energy with access to the internet, and all that comes with it.
The startup claims to have invented the concept of Solar and Digital Home Systems (SDHS), a crossover between the traditional SHS and set-top boxes. The OniriQ SDHS come with a 50W solar panel, several LED lamps, a 24-inch TV set and an embedded connection to internet for domestic uses and for internet protocol television (IPTV).
“The competitive landscape for domestic off-grid energy is quite crowded in Africa, but the majority of companies are specialised on distribution. We observed that the top 10 companies specialising in hardware development focused on electrifying rural houses but neglected all the digital uses,” OniriQ chief executive officer (CEO) Rodolphe Rosier told Disrupt Africa.
“So we decided to develop an all-in-one product in partnership with an internet provider. We wanted to be able to provide digital contents as well as electricity. That led us to rethink SHS entirely from a connectivity perspective.”
The self-funded startup spent 18 months developing prototypes in several Senegalese villages, testing its system in real conditions and interviewing rural families. After securing key partnerships, it now deploys 200 products in the field and is planning to roll out 5,000 units in 2019.
“We are currently raising funding to accelerate our development in Senegal and to invest in manufacturing,” Rosier said. “If pilots are successful, 2019 should be a commercial deployment phase, with 5,000 units forecasted, and between 10,000 and 15,000 for 2020. We plan to expand in 2021 to two other countries in West Africa.”
OniriQ sells its SDHS to mobile network operators and energy companies, along with service contracts, in partnership with a pay-as-you-go platform. Final users pay their operator using mobile money.
“We have been in Senegal for two years by now and we will continue our development for the next two years in this country. Our strategy is to manufacture and recycle our products in Senegal, to develop some strong partnerships with our clients, and to deploy our service teams with reactivity,” said Rosier.