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This Rwandan Man is Bridging Gaps with Solar-Powered Kiosks that Can Charge 80 Phones at Once

If you happen to find yourself in downtown Kigali and your phone battery is down yet you need to make an important call, the mobile solar charger will come to your rescue.

Spread around the city are mobile solar chargers with a minimum fee of 5 cents to fully charge a phone and 3 cents for 10 minutes of Wi-Fi at the kiosks.

The Solar Mobile Charging Kiosk is the innovation of Henri Nyakarundi, one of Rwanda’s youngster who has chosen to become a job creator rather than a job seeker.

After living in the U.S. as a diasporan, Henri decided to return to his home country and invest. In 2013, he created the mobile charging kiosk under a company he founded – African Renewable Energy Distributor (ARED).

His kiosk has become a one-stop-shop for mobile users who are looking for low cost and convenient phone charging.

Solar kiosk
Henri Nyakarundi, Founder of Africa renewable energy Distributor.

For Henri, his goal of creating the mobile charging kiosk is to create a platform that will cater to people at the base of the pyramid.

“Our business model is a franchise model so we hire individual men or women that want to start their own business on a micro level.”

“Unemployment was high and I believe entrepreneurship and innovation are the keys to solving it. I wanted to create not only a platform but also a business model that can solve the problem of unemployment” he told CGTN Africa.

Rwanda’s unemployment rate reached an all-time high of 17.80 per cent in August 2017. It is currently expected to be 14.40 per cent by the end of this quarter, according to Trading Economics.

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Solar kiosk
Jeanne Marie Uhiriwe, solar kiosk franchisee, Kigali, Rwanda

One of the beneficiaries of the franchise model, Goreti Mujamariya, who was reported to have left her village to the city in search for greener pasture, said “This Kiosk has now become my livelihood. I’ve been able to solve my financial issues since having the solar kiosk.”

ARED makes it possible for people with little capital to start their own businesses and at the same time provide stable and reliable energy solutions to rural and semi-urban areas.

Out of every 100 people in Rwanda, 72 people have mobile phones, yet only 34% have access to electricity, according to the World Bank.

ARED, at the moment, does not only help customers charge their phones but also provides its franchisees with training on customer service and client satisfaction.

Serving over 200,000 customers with a success rate of 500,000 digital transactions since its inception, “connectivity has increased dramatically across Africa,” Henri told CNN.

The mobile kiosks are powered by 100-watt solar panels and can charge up to 80 phones at one time.

Solar kiosk
Henri’s kiosk can charge 80 phones at once

The kiosks, which are mounted on wheels, can also be folded, making it stress-free for women and people with disabilities to become agents.

Henri, who plans to expand his pool of kiosks, has managed to introduce his micro franchising model to neighbouring Uganda with aided funding from US-based impact investor Gray Matters Capital.

He looks forward to a time when ARED will provide its own local network and will be able to provide users with up to 30 minutes of Wi-Fi from revenues that will be generated from featuring app developers on the network.

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