Africa GreenTec Electrification Rurale SARL (AGT-ER) is a mini grid developer in Mali that uses Solartainer technology.  Solartainers are solar power plants whose capacity can be individually adapted to the requirements of particular regions. Through AECF funding, the company is deploying its solar mini-grids to Kayes and Mopti to meet unmet energy needs in these insecure and hard-to-reach areas. Their target is to reach 50 villages, benefiting 630 households and 70 small businesses by 2024.

Until two years ago, night-time used to signify hours of complete darkness and insecurity for the residents of Dioumaténé, a rural commune in the Sikasso Region of southern Mali. The village had never been connected to the national power grid.

Without electricity to run electric fans or refrigerators, families contended with the discomfort of humid nights, while children were forced to rush through their homework in the few hours of daylight after school. Shops closed early, losing business opportunities, and criminals had a field-day as the darkness covered their tracks.

AECF supported AGT-ER to acquire transmission cables, equipment for indoor installation and all other equipment essential for household connections to the mini-grid. To access the power supply, households have been equipped with digital recharge devices that are fed by affordable vouchers. An average household consumes electricity worth between US$6.5 and US$10 per month, making total annual fuel cost savings of US$140 per home, and US$300 for shopkeepers. Meanwhile, by allowing traders to keep their shops open late into the night, increasing their revenues.

“I can turn on the three light bulbs in my house, charge the whole family’s mobile phones and keep the television on all day long if I so wish,” marveled Sidiki Ouattara. “All for about 1,486 FCFA (US$2.7) per month.”

Ouattara is a blacksmith who heads a family of seven. Prior to joining the AGT Grid, he was among the few people in his village that owned a micro solar system. However, his set up was inefficient, with the car batteries he used to store power lasting only three months before requiring replacement. In total, he spent an average of US$350 on batteries alone every year, maintenance costs that he no longer incurs.

Overall, the social benefits of the AGT/AECF investment have made a quick return – at the household level, children can now study after dark, while families sleep comfortably under electric fans to control the hot night-time temperatures. Additionally, the solar street lights installed around the village and within the shopping center have increased the security of residents by acting as a deterrent against thieves.