Innovative Africa: using solar power phones

While United Nations and other international organizations were talking about using solar power in developing countries, locals in Kenya, Africa, decided to take actions and make faster changes in order to live better life.

The 38-year-old women Habiba Rage from Alago Alba in Kenya’s North Eastern Region has come up with the idea how to overcome the lack of connection in her place and the village. She  started using the mobile phones in a village with a huge electricity gap by using the cell phone that uses solar energy to recharge.

In fact, the village does not have constant electricity, so it is very difficult to own a mobile phone because it requires the energy to keep working. Habiba works as a trader and keeping track of stock arriving from the nearest urban center, Isiolo is essential in her work in order to provide goods on time. The most common problem what happens on the road is the attacks by bandits, so Habiba really needs to keep in touch with the drivers this way preventing the attacks or other problems. She and many others had been facing the connection and charging problems. However, thanking to Rage’s idea  of the phone, communication in her village and surroundings became much more faster and reliable.

The phone that uses solar power was invented by telecommunications company Safaricom (owned by the UK’s Vodafone) and Kenya’s Mobitelea Ventures. The technology is anyhow not new, but using it in phones was quite innovative idea. The phone is fitted with a charger that absorbs and stores the energy directly from the sun, so the phone holder does not need a mains connection to charge it, so it saves money as well. It is not only affordable, but environmentally friendly as well, as it is made from recyclable material.


And there are many similar happily ending stories about the usage of these new phones, however, these people are rather considered to be lucky than average African. Although solar power mobile phones appeared in Africa not so few time ago, in 2009 when Kenya was suffering from a major power shortfall and they seemed to be a great innovation with a very bright future, there are still a lot of problems in spreading the technology around, in introducing the technology to the governments or local organizations, especially in dealing with the banks.

“We talk with the bank or microfinance institution to encourage them to lend to the entrepreneurs,” said Collings, chief operations officer at Global Village Energy Partnership, a non-profit organisation that tries to harness entrepreneurship to open up energy for the poor. The main challenge is sourcing the start-up capital to purchase the solar panels. “Persuading banks and microfinancing institutions has not been an easy task for GVEP. Despite this challenge, there are steps ahead being made.” Hopefully, this and other organisations will make a visible change and the technology will spread around more as from the examples it is visible that it can become a running change in all Africa.



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