Serving our sector through the Covid-19 crisis
Dear friends and partners,
First and foremost, as we’ve all had to adjust to the new normal over the last couple of months, we hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and well.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed all our lives. The companies we work with have all been impacted to an extent, as well as their customers, who have most to gain or lose from how this crisis plays out for the energy access sector.
SunFunder acted fast to get ahead of these impacts and help mitigate the risks to our sector as best as possible.
We have been working closely with our existing borrowers to understand how they and their customers are being impacted, and in turn how SunFunder can continue to support them and best manage any new risks to our portfolio and investors.
One of the most important ways we can support the sector during these challenging times is to continue making new investments, while carefully considering new risks and how to mitigate them.
We closed four new loans at the end of Q1, which took SunFunder over $100m invested in distributed solar in Africa and other emerging regions. A strange time to reach this landmark, but a landmark all the same, reflecting years of dedication by our team to solving energy poverty and climate change.
Those new loans were with two existing solar home system borrowers – M-KOPA in Kenya and PEG Africa in Ghana – as well as long-term financing for the solarisation of Orange’s telecom towers in the Central African Republic by energy solutions provider CREI, which will cut CO2 emissions by 1,300 tons annually.
We also completed our first commercial & industrial (C&I) end user financing with MCI in Kenya for a solar installation and energy efficiency improvements. The Nairobi-based manufacturer has also repurposed some of its lines to produce 100,000 face masks per week and other medical equipment in response to the pandemic.
We are still open for business and looking to support the sector further. We are doing this by working closely with all our partners, our portfolio companies and potential new investees.
The situation has brought home more than ever how important partnerships are to get through the harder times – we are grateful to be working with organisations like Sida and DFC, who have provided credit guarantee and political risk insurance facilities respectively. Both have shown huge willingness to understand how they could help SunFunder and the wider industry to mitigate new risks.
New initiatives for sector relief
More generally, there has been an overwhelming response by all our partners working on energy access that do not want to see sector growth and impact lost – showing what successful international coordination can look like.
We are working with Acumen, Persistent and responsAbility, among others, on setting up a relief fund for energy access companies, to support them through the crisis and protect local jobs. We will be providing more information about this soon, but any companies (or investors) that have not yet registered their interest can do so here: energyaccessrelief.org.
SunFunder has been able to get to grips with the new realities of social distancing relatively easily because we were well set from our first days for remote working, having chosen systems and processes to enable a distributed team to work together efficiently. Of course, the last couple of months have led to completely new versions of this, from virtual coffee breaks to team zoom quizzes.
Emerging from the Covid-19 crisis will be a long process. We are doing all we can to make sure it doesn’t set back the longer-term challenges of solving energy access and climate change.
From the SunFunder team