Enhancing Connectivity in the Democratic Republic of Congo
With a population comprising over half of Central Africa's total, the Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the lowest electrification rates in the region, with less than 19% of households having access. Despite the growing significance of minigrids as a cost-effective solution for future electricity needs, they have remained significantly underfunded in the energy access markets.
Nuru finances, deploys, and operates utility-scale, off-grid, solar-hybrid mini-grids in the DRC, which can be rapidly installed to provide reliable, affordable, and scalable electricity to address unmet and under-served demand. Nuru aims to directly serve commercial and industrial off-takers as well as to sell power to households, SMEs, and institutions.
As a second-time borrower, Nuru received their first loan of $500K from Open in 2021 due to a European financing delay caused by COVID-19. In 2022 they required a $1M bridge loan to further establish a firm foundation in the DRC. Nuru needed to be able to spend on-site development costs to make sure their projects could close on an upcoming Series B and be shovel-ready for investment by the end of the year. At the time, they were also processing a close of up to $44M in debt and equity financing from a consortium of funders.
Open Road’s Response
Open Road’s $1M bridge loan enabled Nuru to maintain continuity of service, providing electricity to hundreds of thousands of underserved households, businesses, and social institutions. The loan also served as a catalyst for expanding the company's impact in the region. In the absence of sufficient working capital, Nuru faced the imminent need to temporarily halt crucial construction phases of significant projects. Such a setback would have not only dampened community morale and public support but also hindered Nuru’s operational growth and scalability.
Despite enduring various macroeconomic challenges during the loan period, including a nearby volcanic eruption, setbacks caused by Covid-19, and ongoing delays in funding from grant providers, Nuru’s operations continued to thrive and progress as planned. Through Open Road’s loan, Nuru was able to allocate funds towards site development costs, expedite key projects, and secure additional bridge financing while simultaneously closing their Series B funding round. Nuru is on track to build 13.7MWp of isolated solar-hybrid grids by mid-2024.
“Our first major project was coming online and with the strategic timing of the Open Road loan, we were able to operate at 100% of capability. This operational success allowed us to reach our Series B. The loan was truly catalytic in terms of timing and we are grateful for Open Road’s willingness to invest while we were still stabilizing as an organization.”
Jonathan Shaw, Founder & CEO