Orange to offer a range of eco-friendly gadgets in Africa

French incumbent Orange has partnered with green consumer tech specialist d.light to resell its products to prepaid customers in Africa.

Nick Wood

May 29, 2024

3 Min Read

Based in California, d.light has developed a range of devices including various lamps, torches, fans and phone chargers that can be powered by small self-installed solar panels.

One such product, the T500R, is like a Swiss army knife. Ostensibly a solar-chargeable torch, it also features an ambient sidelight, a radio, a USB socket that can charge phones and play music from memory sticks, and Bluetooth connectivity.

D.light has even launched its own range of low-power-consumption TVs that can run on both AC or DC power depending on whether it is plugged into the mains or solar.

Orange has begun offering some of these products to customers via its Orange Energies platform in Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In future it plans to extend into a further five countries – Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and the Central African Republic (CAR).

The target market for these devices tends to be low income households who live off grid. As such, Orange has made it possible for customers to pay in instalments via its Orange Money service, deducting payments from their prepay balance.

"Mobile operators are natural partners for off-grid solar providers like d.light as they have the scale and the resources to reach rural communities in remote locations which are not connected to the energy grid," said d.light CEO Nick Imudia. "In addition, operator billing-based mobile money services like Orange Money give low-income households the flexibility to make payments for solar products as and when they can afford to do so. People can access affordable renewable solar energy solutions via simple mobile prepayment."

The partnership is a good fit for Orange Energies, which has been slowly and steadily switching more and more of its mobile sites in rural Africa to renewable energy, and reselling surplus electricity to surrounding communities at affordable prices.

According to the International Energy Agency, in 2022, some 600 million people in Africa didn't have direct access to reliable electricity. Efforts to improve electricity access have been hampered in recent years by the pandemic and the energy crisis sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

What's more, alternative energy sources for cooking, heating and electricity – like generators or solid fuel burning – are bad for the planet and personal health, and also tend to be more expensive. A World Bank study in 2020 said households that lack electricity spend 10 times more than households with electricity in order to make up for it.

In addition to selling surplus electricity, Orange Energies also manufactures and sells – via a network of partners – solar kits for households and small businesses. Depending on a customer's requirements, a technician will go out and install panels and an inverter; a battery; a GSM-based remote control; and accessories including light bulbs and radios and so-on.

Now, by partnering with d.light, Orange Energies can also offer self-install products, addressing another segment of the market, and reducing its reliance on more costly and complicated engineer visits. It's a nifty value-add to Orange's service that should make it more attractive to prospective customers, it's a new distribution network for d.light – and on top of that it's good for the planet.

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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