SA’s Sun Exchange begins African expansion with project in Zimbabwe

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South African startup Sun Exchange, a peer-to-peer solar leasing platform, has begun its expansion across the continent with the launch of the crowdsale for the first phase of a 1.9 megawatt (MW) solar-plus-storage project for Zimbabwean company Nhimbe Fresh.

Launched in 2015, Sun Exchange enables anyone, anywhere in the world, to buy remotely-located solar cells that power schools, businesses and other organisations.

The startup has since then built a community of more than 19,000 members across 168 countries and brought solar power to 35 South African schools, businesses and organisations, and it set itself up for further growth after closing its US$4 million Series A investment round in June.

Sun Exchange’s founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Abraham Cambridge told Disrupt Podcast the startup would initially be targeting neighbouring countries, and that has proven the case with the Nhimbe Fresh partnership.

Based in Zimbabwe, Nhimbe Fresh is a leading African exporter of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, stone fruit, snap peas and snow peas. Its partnership with Sun Exchange will be the latter’s largest solar installation to date, as well as the first outside of South Africa.

The multiphase solar and battery project will power Nhimbe Fresh packhouse and cold store facilities (phase one), pump sites (phase two), and Churchill Farm (phase three). The introduction of continuous, reliable power, at a lower cost than running diesel generators, is forecast to reduce the Nhimbe Fresh facilities’ energy costs by more than 60 per cent per year and carbon emissions by more than one million kilogrammes per year. 

“At Nhimbe Fresh, we recognise and embrace our interdependence on our surrounding communities and the environment. Our vision is to pursue a purpose greater than ourselves and to pioneer new, profitable ways of doing business through sustainability and environmental responsibility. Going solar through Sun Exchange is a significant step towards that vision, minimising our energy costs and climate impact, while strengthening our resilience and business continuity by enabling us to continue operations during power outages,” said Edwin Masimba Moyo, chairman and sole shareholder at Nhimbe Fresh.

Abraham Cambridge, chief executive officer (CEO) and founder at Sun Exchange, said though agriculture accounted for 23 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, the critical sector faced immense challenges, including unreliable power supply, rising electricity costs, climate-induced drought and limited access to finance for clean energy. 

“Sun Exchange directly addresses those challenges by facilitating access to extremely simple, affordable, reliable solar power,” he said.

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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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