HALIFAX — An Atlantic Canadian startup that helps bring sustainable and affordable energy to Tanzania has secured $1.7-million in seed funding to expand its service.
Jaza provides a solar-powered, rechargeable battery service in Tanzania by building Energy Hubs that charge battery packs for rural, last-mile customers to take home and use to power lights and small appliances. Jaza hires women from local communities to operate Energy Hub battery charging stations.
The funding enables Jaza to expand to new regions in Tanzania.
“Jaza’s mission is to provide an affordable, high-value service for homes in rural Tanzania, powering light and small appliances for a fraction of what a typical off-grid household spends on kerosene for lighting,” said Jaza’s CEO Jeff Schnurr in a release.
Founded in Sackville, and now based in Halifax, Jaza has built 70 Energy Hubs, serving over 23,000 people in rural Tanzania. The company employs 140 women in the Tanzanian regions of Pemba and Mtwara. Jaza’s battery swap solution has been designed by and for rural customers, and the company’s proprietary lithium-ion battery packs provide lighting and home power needs.
The company’s progress has attracted capital in the form of grants, equity and debt from leading institutions in the energy access space, including UK charity Shell Foundation, DRK Foundation, Ceniarth, EEP Africa multi-donor trust fund and Active Impact Investments. Other investors include Canada Clean Fuels and private angel investors.
“It has been really exciting to see first-hand how our customers have reacted to the energy services we provide. Our solution costs our customers half of what they were previously spending on kerosene for lighting,” said Jaza director of marketing, Radhina Kipozi. “We have built a very customer-focused company at Jaza and will continue to let our customers lead our product development.”
The company will expand operations to the Kigoma region of Tanzania and hire 200 more community women to run the battery-swap energy service.
“As a second wave solar energy solution in Sub-Saharan Africa, we are looking to learn from the pay-as-you-go companies and pico-solar solutions that have entered our market,” said Schnurr. “Our in-community infrastructure and customer-facing employees allow us to keep customer acquisition costs low, and the centralization of our power generation has allowed us to provide more energy to our customers.”