Andrew Carter is the Managing Director of Paygo Ventures. Previously at the African Development Bank, he led mini-grid technical assistance and initiatives to provide debt finance to pay as you go solar companies. Prior to that, he consulted for clients in Côte d’Ivoire and Democratic Republic of Congo on mini-grid projects. His entrepreneurship experience includes Aphelion Energy, a solar installation company in Ivory Coast, as well as a Russian restaurant venture. His business background includes stints at DuPont de Nemours and as a management consultant. He has an MBA from IE Business School, a BA in Economics from Cambridge University, and he speaks French and Russian fluently.
What is your off-grid energy business? Can you give a brief overview? How long have you been working on this business?
We help rural households to modernize and reduce energy costs, and we help rural business to be more profitable and better serve their customers. We do this through tailored solar energy solutions sold on credit and delivered to the last mile through our network of field agents. I began working on mini-grids in 2015 and pivoted to this business model – which I believe is commercially viable and more rapidly scalable – in 2016.
What inspired you to start working in off-grid energy?
In 2010 I worked for the NGO TechnoServe on micro-lending to cocoa farmers. I spent a lot of time in cocoa-growing communities that lack electricity. I saw the impact this has on every aspect of their lives – education, health, productivity, and leisure too. It just isn’t right that, by an accident of birth, so many people should be without such a basic component of a decent quality of life. We’re determined to change this.
What has been most rewarding?
Besides hearing from happy customers, the most rewarding thing has been empowering our sales agents. The most motivated among them thrive not only from the income and training they receive, but also from being part of a real solution to a pressing need faced by their community.
If you could share some wisdom with yourself 3 years ago, what would it be?
Uncertainty is just part of being an entrepreneur and before long you’ll learn to thrive on it, so don’t let it get in the way of execution.
Where do you hope to be 3 years from now?
I hope to have built a strong and independent team that has brought our business to a meaningful scale and is approaching profitability. I hope to have extended beyond Côte d’Ivoire to start spreading our impact to the wider region.