Mercy Corps wanted to better understand the opportunity for using Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) technologies to finance solar lighting systems for households in Ugandan refugee settlements. I interviewed humanitarian practitioners and leading PAYG solar providers in Uganda. I also traveled to the West Nile region and conducted interviews, observations, and focus groups in Arua, Rhino Camp and Bidi Bidi Settlement.
Our findings were that while there was demand for PAYG products in the refugee settlements, usage of them was extremely low. There was a high penetration of cheap generic solar systems that were considered more affordable, but also a lot of frustration with their low quality.
PAYG providers were not targeting refugee settlements because of the higher cost of sales and service, and a perceived risk of lower repayment rates by refugees. Further, they felt they did not have enough data on the refugee’s ability to pay for PAYG lighting systems.
Our research found that most refugees in the West Nile region cannot afford the PAYG lighting systems being sold. Further, the mobile money payment systems needed to make repayments were not easy to reach or reliable for the vast majority of refugees living in the settlements.
The research resulted in Mercy Corps piloting some solutions with leading providers and publishing this research along with further research they did in: