Solar phone charging launched in Tanzania

People living in off-grid areas of Tanzania will soon have more widespread access to photovoltaic and pedal-powered charging stations through the roll out of ReadySet charging stations. The distribution of the systems, which have been developed by Fenix International, is being supported by Vodacom Tanzania.

The ReadySet charges multiple phones simultaneously and is also capable of powering an LED light bulb and tablet computers. The solar panel can charge up to 10 phones a day. At first the systems will be launched with only the solar panel, but the bicycle dynamo will launch at a later date.

The ReadySet will cost around US$200 and can generated $40 to $50 per month for the shopkeeper from mobile phone charging.

In 2012, a ReadySet pilot program took place and it was demonstrated that there is strong demand for mobile phone photovoltaic charging services amongst Vodacom Tanzania’s 40,000 sales locations. The incentive for Vodacom to facilitate the scheme is that revenue from sales of M-Pesa mobile phone credit will be increased if there is wider access to charging stations.

"Vodacom has already transformed the lives of nine million people in Tanzania by providing unprecedented access to mobile communications and mobile banking via its M-Pesa network," said Fenix International’s CEO Mike Lin, in a statement announcing the product roll out. "Whether an M-Pesa agent, small business or a mother looking to generate additional household income, the ReadySet can empower owners to become micro-utility entrepreneurs in their communities."

The ReadySet was developed using crowdsourced finance via the website Kickstarter. The project to develop the ReadySet was launched in July 2012, with the $100,000 required raised by August 10. Fenix International also has an office in Rwanda, funded through the Kickstarter campaign.

The May edition of pv magazine will feature a special report on some of the innovative startups and social businesses supplying off-grid areas in Africa with photovoltaic solutions.