Urban Farming

The Africans buying sunshine with their phones

Solar-powered electricity divisions are removing the need for dangerous kerosene lamps and allowing Africans to remain connected

Julie Njeri did not believe her son when he proclaimed he no longer requirement spectacles to speak his journals and complete his homework.

She took him to the doctor and was told young Peter Mwangi no longer suffered the sharp discomfort and redness in his eyes that had resulted in him please give glass. Peters mum exclaimed: Its a miracle!

The explanation was somewhat more tangible. In late 2013, Julie and her husband bought an M-Kopa solar power kit something 4,000 east Africans now do every week.

The $ 200( 150) device comes with two LED bulbs, an LED flashlight, a rechargeable battery, adaptors for charging telephones, and it is all charged by a small solar panel that is propped on the roof.

More than 300,000 families in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania who are not connected to the electricity grid have acquired the human rights unit which is linked to the mobile fund carry structure M-Pesa.

After paying a deposit of $35 or $25, depending on their M-Pesa credit history, customers are then able to settle the balance through daily mobile phone payments of 50 cents for a year until they own the device outright.

It has brought clean vigour to many the house and influences thousands of businesses ranging from small-minded greengrocers in heavily populated low-income villages to restaurants that can now abide open longer.

More importantly, children like Peter no longer have to use kerosene-powered paraffin lamps to do their studies in dimly illuminated residences, and their parents enjoy saving the money that was spent on unclean sources of energy.

Chad Larson, one of the co-founders of M-Kopa, said the idea sprung from a talk that the Vodafone executive Nick Hughes gave at Oxfords business school in 2007.

Hughes, who is credited with the early research work that led to the introduction of M-Pesa in Kenya, told the audience that mobile phones could replace banks in much of the developing world.

Control unit fixed to a dirt wall in a residence powered by M-Kopa solar engineering in village representatives in Kenya. Photo: Waldo Swiegers/ Bloomberg/ Getty Images

The light bulb went on as we listened to Nick explain how mobile phones had an virtually insurmountable advantage over banks, articulated Larson. The sim in the mobile was basically like an ID card and mobiles were much easier to access than opening a bank account, a process that had much more formidable barriers to entry.

A few years after finishing his analyzes, Larson and a fellow student, Jesse Moore, discontinue their jobs and moved to Nairobi with Hughes to join the mobile revolution that was taking hold in east Africa.

After dabbling in a number of enterprises including a mobile savings account product and a medical helpline where patients could consult physicians via mobile phone, they turned their attention to solar.

Although it has a heavy tech factor, M-Kopa is at root a finance business. Kopa intends borrow in Swahili and the rapid takeup of the loan product rested on the phenomenal success of the M-Pesa platform run by the Kenyan technology company Safaricom, part-owned by Vodafone.

M-Pesa, through which customers reconcile their payments, provides as a virtual wallet on mobile phones into which customers deposit cash at an M-Pesa agent. They can then use it to pay invoices or transmit the money to another customer.

Kenya now has most mobile fund accounts than many other countries, 31. 6m in a commonwealth with a population of 44 million. Eight out of 10 Kenyans operate a bank or mobile report, up from 26.1% in 2009.

Companies such as M-Kopa are journeying that ripple. It had projected it would be selling 1,000 divisions a week within two years, but it convened that target in half the time and its 1,000 -strong marketings force in the three east African countries shifts 4,000 divisions a week. It hopes to have sold 1m divisions by the end of 2017.

Investors have piled in a recent $19 m investment round was joined by a number of big names including Generation Investment Management, a fund co-founded by the former US vice-president Al Gore, Virgins Richard Branson and the AOL co-founder Steve Case.

Larson says the firm plans to expand to up to 15 countries in Africa and Asia in the next five years, tracking the development of mobile fund, but says there is still considerable growth potential in east Africa.

M-Kopas most potent advertising appears to be the word-of-mouth testimonials of neighbours disclosing how they have cut down on expensive and dangerous kerosene lamps thanks to the solar device. This was accentuated during a recent journey accompanying a sales team to install a unit at a home in the peri-urban farming settlement of Juja, 30 miles( 50 km) from Nairobi.

Mary Wanjiku, 23, opened her gate to disclose a typical smallholder farming household including a couple of lively chickens, three goats and a sleepy-eyed guard dog lying next to its scrawny chocolate-brown puppy.

Why was she buying the device? Her motives were strikingly similar to those of Julie Njeri, who lives in the various regions of the ridge in the Kamiti neighbourhood.

I am tired of treading long distances to charge my phone and I hear from others that this will help me save on the amount of money I spend on kerosene, she articulated. But the most important thing is that my daughter and son will be able to do their homework under these illuminations instead of waking up at 5am to study using sunlight.

Read more: http :// www.theguardian.com/ us

Related Post

To Top