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Nuru's $40 million Series B will drive electrification in DRC

Cleantech startup Nuru has secured a $40 million Series B to drive its efforts to provide 24-hour electricity to five million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nuru's $40 million Series B will drive electrification in DRC
An overview of a solar plant in the DRC owned by Nuru

In 2015, Jonathan Shaw, a Kenya-born American tech entrepreneur founded Kivu Green Energy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the company built Congo's first mini-grid in 2017. Three years later, it opened a 1.3-megawatt facility in the city of Goma, making it the largest mini-grid in sub-Saharan Africa with no connection to a national grid.

In September 2019, the company changed its name to “Nuru”, a Swahili word meaning Light. This change of name was to reflect the company's expansion beyond the regions of Kivu.

Less than 20% of the DRC's 100 million population has access to energy, Nuru’s utility-scale solar mini-grids are designed to provide all day renewable energy to the communities they are installed—this strategy is designed to improve climate resilience and sustainable development, which is now a global concern.

With a goal to serve five million people in the country's population by 2024, Nuru says it needs $300 million. In a move to achieve this goal, the DRC-based cleantech has secured a $40 million Series B, and its anticipating the close of an additional $28m in project finance by the end of the month.

The $40 million in funds come from market-leading equity investors including the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), the Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP), Proparco, E3 Capital, Voltalia, the Schmidt Family Foundation, GAIA Impact Fund, and the Joseph Family Foundation. Additionally, IFC’s equity investment includes financing from the Finland-IFC Blended Finance for Climate Program.

Per Bloomberg, Nuru intends to raise a $90 million Series C round later this year.

"Closing the Series B is a significant milestone in Nuru’s journey, but also demonstrates the viability of the metrogrid model in the distributed energy sector in Africa," Jonathan Shaw, co-founder and CEO of Nuru, said. "Nuru extends its heartfelt appreciation to the consortium of investors for their visionary support and unwavering commitment to Nuru’s vision. Together, we will continue to illuminate lives, drive economic growth, and empower communities across the DRC."

With this funding, Nuru will begin work immediately on three transformational projects in Goma, Kindu, and Bunia, which will have a combined capacity of 13.7 MWp. The Bunia site will become the largest off-grid solar hybrid metrogrid in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Expanding access to electricity is instrumental to supporting economic growth and improving living standards for people and businesses in the DRC. IFC’s support for Nuru will play a pivotal role in helping to bridge the energy access gap by using an innovative business model, new technology and more climate friendly power sources," IFC Country Manager for the DRC, Malick Fall, said in a statement seen by Bendada.com.

Prior to this latest fund, Nuru raised a Series A in a round led by E3 Capital (formerly Energy Access Ventures) in 2018 together with EDFI ElectriFI, the EU-funded Electrification Financing Initiative, managed by EDFI  Management Company. Their investment was catalytic in building Nuru’s current operating metrogrid portfolio in the cities of Goma, Beni, Tadu, and Faradje.

Meanwhile, initial investments in March from REPP, Proparco, and E3 Capital bridged a financing gap to bolster the Series B equity fundraise. REPP, which is funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and managed by Camco, Proparco, which is the private sector financing arm of Agence Française de Développement Group (AFD), and E3 Capital, which is a leading investor in low-carbon early-stage companies, each committed $500,000 in a convertible note round earlier in the year.

According to REPP Lead at Camco, Benjamin Hugues, "REPP’s follow-on investment in Nuru’s Series B round is evidence of our continued belief in Nuru’s ability to address DRC’s material energy access deficit. The company’s Series B round comprises an impressive list of investors of all types, and is a great example of how catalytic funding from REPP and its public sector funding partners can help de-risk investments in the sector, ultimately leading to increased private sector participation in tackling some of these challenges."

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