Spark’s Plan for African Energy

2023 is now underway, and at Spark it’s set to be a bright year. Building on the company’s successes and partnerships in 2022, we’re looking to scale, innovate and bring more partners into our truly modular ecosystem.

Our Co-Founder and Managing Director Marcel van Heist shares his insight into Spark’s mission, our direction and what we can expect in 2023 and beyond.

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Q: Marcel, tell us about Spark’s successes in 2022 and plans to scale in 2023?

In 2022, we made a huge step towards our energy ladder roadmap with our new product. Now, in 2023, we’re doubling down on accelerating our growth across multiple areas of the business to get that product to as many people as possible. It’s long been a part of our strategy to grow with our customers and help them move up the energy ladder with a truly modular product business model. Now we’re ready to put this into practice.

At the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum and Expo in Kigali, we showcased how we have carved out a space in the market that is truly unique, setting out the three steps of our business model, our products, our distribution partnerships and our ability to unlock access to finance for our partners as they grow. We believe this supports true modularity in the market.

We know that when it comes to energy, customers want to start small and scale up as and when they can afford. At Spark we incorporate true modularity. This means we’re don’t just offer customers a single expansion offer. We enable them to take on as much as they can afford, when they need it and in 2022 we put this into practice.

In 2023 we want to expand on that. By really helping customers level up on the energy ladder, and see more customers take their next steps up on the energy ladder with Spark products.

We want to bring our customers and our partners along with us on that growth journey and help them to see and understand that the first system they buy will not be their final system. This is revolutionary for customers and also offers a lot of promise in customer retention for our partners.

Secondly, we want to scale in new geographies. There is a huge market potential for our products and business approach in countries like Nigeria, Madagascar and other regions with low electrification rates. This is where we want to concentrate our efforts.

Naturally, as our company grows we’ll be bringing in new team members – we are opening a new office outside of the Netherlands, in China – something we’re expecting to see more of.

Spark at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum & Expo 2022

Q: It’s true that Spark’s innovation roadmap, goes beyond products. How will Spark continue to innovate to grow this year?

The key way we intend to do this is by expanding our Spark Support service and investing more in research and development on the product innovation side of our business. This R&D will help us improve our existing appliances, and while we are actively listening to the feedback that comes through our distribution partners about our products, we’re hearing demand for new and different types of products and appliances that customers desire – one of which being a solar freezer.

But there is also a bigger mission on the horizon that Spark has been completely focused on since our inception. That is, how do we provide true scalable energy access for entire communities?

To do that, we need to continue to grow our current business and partnerships whilst also exploring energy access beyond Solar Home Systems.

At Spark, we have always foreseen that remote areas in rural Africa can leapfrog the traditional centralised power grid. What we want to do is understand how we can implement large scale energy access solutions that support this and beyond what SHS currently deliver.

In this way, we know that we constantly need to innovate, not just to improve products, but to truly understand our customers and learn to anticipate their future needs. In a way, product innovation is just the first step in a much broader mission to create a fully scalable energy system for rural communities in Africa.

Q: What makes Spark different from other solar companies, and how will this shape its vision in 2023 and beyond?

Spark’s vision of the future energy network for off-grid communities is what drives us forward. We’re not just a product manufacturer or designer. We’re not just an access to finance partner, we’re not just solar specialists – we’re all of those things and more. We set out to create an entirely new energy ecosystem. That’s means we design and manufacture products, get them into the hands of local distribution companies and then help them access finance and train in-house tech specialists to give them the everything they need to grow and succeed.

We really do grow with our partners, because when they succeed, we succeed and together we have a greater impact.We believe that there are companies out there that can benefit from our partnership and leverage our cooperation to become leading, profitable distribution companies. We want to find them and help them nurture and grow.

This is a key part of our plans for 2023, as we are expanding our portfolio of commercial access to finance and making sure it can can be streamlined to simplify the process of unlocking finance for those distribution companies.

Ultimately, making universal energy access a reality is our long-term goal. We recognise that this is something that can only be achieved with immense collaboration.