Africa-news (579)

A large hydrocarbon deposit has been discovered off the shore of Angola's capital Luanda at a site operated by American firm ExxonMobil, the country's national agency for oil, gas and biofuels announced.

Botswana has won its bid to host the permanent secretariat of the Kimberley Process (KP), the grouping that certifies that diamonds are not used to fund rebel groups, but its members remain divided over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

When Abraham Cambridge flew to South Africa in 2014, he was struck by how few solar panels he saw in a sunny country with unreliable electricity.

Soon after, he started the Sun Exchange, a company that crowdfunds the installation of panels, eliminating the need for customers to raise the often prohibitive amount of money needed to buy and install equipment.

"You've got to put solar panels into locations where you have the most environmental and social impact," says Cambridge, who’d previously run a panel-installation business in the UK.

"That drew me to South Africa, where it's got fantastic solar radiation and escalating energy issues." He zeroed in on schools, retirement homes, and shopping malls as potential customers—places that often find solar's costs prohibitive.

Sun Exchange invites investors to buy solar cells, a constituent part of panels, for as little as $4, at a project of their choice. The customers who receive the renewable energy still pay a fee over a 20-year contract, but the cost is below what would have been charged for electricity from the grid.

Part of the income goes to Sun Exchange, so it can fund installation and maintenance and make a profit. The rest gets paid to investors. They can choose to receive South African rand or Bitcoin, with the cryptocurrency allowing easy cross-border payments to the more than 35,000 people in 180 countries who have participated so far.

"I bought a couple of solar cells for a Sun Exchange project in 2018, the installation at Sacred Heart College in Johannesburg," says Nick Hedley, a 34-year-old communications consultant and writer in Cape Town.

"The earnings generated since then equate to 23% of my initial investment. It's a genius operating model."

South Africa has had its worst electricity outages this year as the indebted state utility, Eskom, which generates almost all its power from coal, struggles to keep its aged plants running.

Made in Africa

Until recently there were few alternatives for small businesses and homes to finance their own solar energy. "What this business model enables is, essentially, to use every roof that is available for solar, to allow everybody to invest in solar," says Jules Kortenhorst, chief executive officer of the research nonprofit RMI.

Sun Exchange has installed panels for more than 60 agricultural businesses, schools, retirement homes, shopping centers, and facilities for the visually or educationally challenged in southern Africa.

One customer, Eric Brown, owns a remote farm in the semidesert Karoo region that isn’t connected to the grid. He's relied on diesel generators, but in September he switched to solar. He expects his power costs to fall more than 60%.

"The biggest infrastructure problem is electricity supply, because you can’t pump with diesel, it’s just too expensive," he says.

Cambridge’s first project, in 2016, was the Stellenbosch Waldorf School, which caught the eye of investors in the US.

Initial funding of $60,000 came from Boost VC in California.

Later rounds brought more than $8.3 million. It took Sun Exchange only three days to raise the R9.5 million needed to install panels at the Pioneer School in Worcester, 70 miles east of Cape Town, which teaches about 120 blind or visually impaired students.

"It's cleaner and cheaper power, and we sell any excess we don't need back to the municipality," says Michael Bredenkamp, Pioneer’s principal.

"We save about R10,000 a month, and we’re helping the environment."-fin24

Twitter said it will start laying off employees on Friday, as the new billionaire owner Elon Musk moves quickly after his big takeover to make the messaging platform financially sound.

The World Bank has approved South Africa’s request for a US$497 million project to decommission and repurpose the Komati coal-fired power plant using renewables and batteries.

Binance Holdings founder and CEO Zhao “CZ” Changpeng, who last month said the crypto exchange may spend more than $1 billion on deals this year, is considering targets including banks as the boundary between the digital-asset industry and traditional finance blurs.

Germany’s government expects that substituting Russian gas could cost the country some US$45.4 billion, according to a report published by parliament.

The Bank of England raised interest rates by the most in 33 years but strongly pushed back against market expectations for the scale of future increases, warning that following that path would induce a two-year recession.

Central banks will get inflation under control, but there will be turbulence in the near-term due to monetary tightening and geopolitical risks, top bankers said at a summit in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe is drawing lessons from Nigeria as it pursues plans for its own central bank digital currency and won’t be deterred by lackluster interest shown in that country.