The off-grid solar industry is one of the fastest-growing in Africa. The sector has seen more than US$360 million in investment across the continent in the past five years and continues to grow rapidly due to a drop in component and storage prices. Given the high barriers to entry in this sector, the new raise will see the startup grow across West Africa even more steadily.
GAIA Impact Fund, a Francophone-focused venture fund specializing in clean energy has invested an undisclosed round into Oolu, a Senegal-based Y Combinator start-up and one of the fastest-growing solar companies in West Africa. The investment has been announced as part of a Series B fundraising round that will close early next year.
Guilhem Dupuy, Investment Manager at GAIA Impact Fund, commented: “We have followed Oolu for some time, and are delighted to announce an investment into one of the most promising companies of the solar homes sector in West Africa. Oolu’s impressive growth has been coupled with lean operations and best-in-class customer support, giving us great confidence that Oolu will successfully scale across the region.”
“Our two companies are strategically and philosophically aligned. Oolu’s commitment to offering high-quality, affordable solar products to ultra-low-income households is vital in rural areas that are not reached by public services or formal grid infrastructure. Oolu’s work ensures these communities are no longer left behind, and we expect our investment to play an important role in growing the company’s regional presence, so that ever more underserved customers can benefit from life-enhancing solutions.”
Gaia’s investment will further strengthen Oolu’s market-leading position in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali. The funding will enable Oolu to build on its strong business infrastructure through investment in its IT systems and software capabilities, and provide additional working capital to support growing business needs. The investment will also allow Oolu to accelerate its regional growth plans, reaching further untapped markets across West Africa.
Gaia focuses on renewable energy investments, and has a strong track record in the solar energy sector. The Fund has supported several start-ups, SMEs and infrastructure projects since it was established in 2016, and has previously invested in solar companies in Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Tanzania. Gaia balances ROI with social and environmental impact, holding all prospective investments to its rigorous selection criteria.
Oolu was launched in Senegal in 2015, and has sold more than 34,000 solar home systems (SHS) in less than three years to rural customers across Senegal, Mali, and Burkina Faso. As one of the fastest-growing SHS distributors in West Africa, Oolu is consistently able to adapt its customer offering to local market dynamics. With a Dakar-based management team and more than 130 full-time employees, Oolu’s team is one of the most experienced in West African solar.
Last October, Oolu closed its Series A fundraising, which was led by Persistent Energy Capital (PEC). PEC and Gaia are committed to supporting the company both in further fundraising rounds and in driving strategic initiatives.
Dan Rosa, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Oolu, commented: “We’re thrilled to have Gaia join us as an investment partner, adding to the strong investor base we have already accrued. We’ve always been selective in the partnerships we form. Given Gaia’s primary focus on tackling energy poverty, its track record in the solar energy sector, and its established presence in French-speaking West Africa, we see this partnership as a natural fit.””