Modernizing the Not-Yet-Modernized: Africa’s Solar Cell Phone Kiosks

By Melissa Marketos

To this day, Africa suffers from an immense energy poverty: more than 30% of the continent’s populace does not have access to electricity; sub-Saharan Africa generates the lowest amount of electricity in the world; citizens experience constant power cuts throughout the year. Africa’s energy problem has been soaring for decades, despite the fact that its lands possess an abundance of available natural resources. In fact, the continent is endowed with the highest number of available solar resources in the world because it is the sunniest continent on earth.

The technological advancements and applications of renewable energy in Africa has the potential to greatly reduce the continent’s energy poverty, especially in rural areas, as well as  improving the lives of many in the continent. Major sectors such as agriculture, education, communication, and technology all require consistent and cost-effective energy to spur the much-needed development of the continent. Indeed, many African nations today have already adopted solar, wind, and geothermal plants that provide energy in rural areas. Many small-scale companies and startups have ventured into provision of renewable energy in the continent, one being Mobile Solar Cell Phone Kiosk.

Henri Nyakarundi, a Rwandese entrepreneur, fabricates and distributes solar-powered mobile kiosks that charge cell phones in Rwanda. This innovative concept is not only convenient but also essential to connect the country's population: the World Bank estimates that over 70% of the population in Rwanda own a cell phone; however, less than 25% of its population has access to electricity.

The solar-powered kiosks, with the capacity to charge up to 80 phones simultaneously, are positioned on bicycles and leased to individuals in the country. The micro-franchisees profit from mobile charging, mobile credit add-ons, and prepaid electricity sales. Nyakarundi cleverly states that his idea is “a business in a box.”

This Rwandese innovation is beginning to become recognized internationally. For instance, Rwanda Red Cross refugee campus housing Burundi immigrants have begun using the charging stations. With these stations, refugees are trained to work as operators to earn their own income.