Vodacom Tanzania to launch solar chargers

Vodacom Tanzania has partnered energy firm Fenix International to launch solar- and bicycle-powered mobile phone chargers from next month.

Fenix says the portable phone charger, powered by a solar panel or bicycle dynamo, will provide a much-needed solution for the millions of off-grid mobile customers who travel miles to access electricity. 

Globally, more than 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity and there are 600 million mobile phone users living off-grid who spend an estimated USD10bn a year on charging phones using petrol generators and car batteries. Vodafone has more than 100 million off-grid subscribers worldwide. In Tanzania, only 14% of the 46 million population are connected to the electricity grid.

A ReadySet pilot in the Pwani Region of Tanzania in 2012 found the device to be an enterprise opportunity for small business owners, including Vodacom Tanzania’s 40,000 M-Pesa agents. A commercial initiative, this is expected to increase mobile use for some of M-Pesa’s 4.5 million Tanzanian subscribers and boost revenue in off-grid areas. The pilot saw airtime vendors and M-Pesa agents offering ReadySet charging increase airtime sales and SIM registrations, with a 14 per cent increase in average revenue per user.

The ReadySet is simple to use, charges multiple phones simultaneously and powers lights, radios and tablets. The solar panel charger – which charges up to 10 phones a day – will be available first and the bicycle dynamo will launch later. Five to 10 minutes of cycling provides enough energy to fully charge a mobile. An included universal battery charger enables customers to leave just the mobile battery with the vendor and an included LED light enables businesses to remain open into the evening. Shopkeepers said this saved them up to $10/mo. in kerosene fuel for lighting. The ReadySet will cost around $200, enabling vendors to earn $40-$50 a month from phone charging.

Rene Meza, Managing Director, Vodacom Tanzania, said: “ReadySet is both a commercial opportunity and a simple technological solution aimed at significantly improving the lives of off-grid mobile customers and small business owners seeking an additional revenue stream. It provides off-grid consumers with a cost efficient and energy efficient solution – and increases access to mobile services such as M-Pesa.”

The ReadySet solar phone charger makes a difference in Tanzania.

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