In rural Rwanda, mobile phones are one of the most essential gadgets. Not only they help people stay connected, but they are also used to disseminate information. What is more, they are the key mean for money transfers, as well as for bill payments.
About 70% of the population of rural Rwanda is equipped with mobile phones. Ironically, only 18% have access to electricity. With this it becomes clear that many people would be struggling to manage their daily activities purely due to lack of charge in their mobile phones.
Another issue that the population of rural Rwanda is facing, is the unemployment. It is not entirely visible among the healthy men, however women and disabled people are often discriminated.
Putting these two issues together, Henri Nyakarundi, a young enthusiastic entrepreneur, decided that it is time to take action. He invented the solar powered mobile kiosk– a product that aims to make the life of thousands of Rwandans much more simple.
Nyakarundi was born Rwanda but was forced to move to the US at an early age with his family. He always dreamed of having his own business and pursuing his own ideas. At the age of 19, he already had his first start-up.
The solar kiosk that he invented is super compact. It can be easily transported by simply attaching it to a two-wheel bike. It uses solar cells to generate electricity, and it can power up to 80 mobile phones at a time.
But the kiosk does not only provide power to those in need. It also creates job opportunities. As part of the business concept, Nyakarundi aims to help the community by stimulating women and disabled people to take part. For them, finding jobs is much harder, therefore the amount of money at their disposal is much more limited. This is why, this group of people become agents and get their kiosk for free, and share the profit with Nyakarundi. For the rest, there is a $100 down payment and around $200 to be payed as a lease in installments.
Currently, four years after the prototype was released, there are 25 kiosks in operation in Rwanda. The vendors, who run the kiosks, make between $38-$107 a month, which is sufficient to cover rent and food supplies for an entire family.
The next aim in front of Nyakarundi is to upscale the business. In the coming two years he foresees to roll out between 600 and 800 kiosks.
Great news for Rwanda’s rural areas- many new jobs opening up. Vendors must be 25 years old or older, and should be able to provide two recommendation letters from their community leaders.
The Solar powered kiosk received quite a number of innovation awards, including one from the tech giant Mictosoft.
Image (c) Africa’s solar start-ups