Do you know that struggle when you are out and your battery is dying yet no mobile charger is in sight?
Whether it comes to connecting with friends, family and relatives, doing researches for work, or just as a pastime: The mobile phone is our permanent companion! With just one click we get the latest news and access to all information. Having a constant connection to the outside world is part of our everyday life and has become a habit.
Yet did you know that while the African mobile market is growing, over 600 million of our people across the continent don't have access to electricity and the internet?
Lack of electricity is a huge problem in many African countries. The majority of people are still using costly and environmentally unfriendly forms of energy for cooking and lighting. They also don’t have the possibility to charge their devices. This means that people who live in remote areas have to make a long journey into the closest town to simply charge their mobile phone.
Yet brave and visionary entrepreneurs are creating solutions to this socio-economic challenge.
Henri Nyakarundi is the founder and CEO of African Renewable Energy Distribution (ARED), an African company that creates income generation opportunities for economically marginalized people through distributing electronic vouchers, mobile money & internet to urban and rural areas.
Motivated by his own inability to find a charge for his mobile phone while on a trip to Burundi, Henri invented SHIRIKI HUB. SHIRIKI HUB is a mobile, solar-powered, cell phones charging kiosk, which offers free Wifi and brings electricity to rural and semi-urban areas in Africa.
Henri started the company in 2009. It took him 4 years of trial and error to build the very first prototype in 2013. To further develop the kiosk, ARED has received notable support from many different organizations that include Catapult Design, SEIF Foundation, Microsoft, Autodesk Foundation, Village Capital, GreenTec Capital, ASME and Siemens Foundation.
Over the years Henri has won a number of competitions and awards. In 2015, Henri was voted the winner of Village Capital's business accelerator programme by other African-based entrepreneurs. In 2014, he was the winner of the SEIF Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
A number of companies and organisations on the continent have identified solar power as the solution. Google, for example, is working on a project called "Project Loon". It is a research project, which aims to bring Internet access to all areas of the world. Singer Akon seeks to provide electricity across the continent with his project called "Akon Lighting Africa".
Until today, Henri and his team have been able to implement 25 solar kiosks. His new invention attracted public attention by the media and news channels, such as BBC, CNN, AL Jazeera and co to name just a few.
Another vision of Henri is to create new jobs and fight local unemployment. Between 20% and 90% unemployment is a harsh reality in many African countries. That is why he implemented a franchise business model to promote entrepreneurship in African countries: „I believe that there is so much untapped talent, and all they need is a little boost“, says Henri.
I believe that there is so much untapped talent in Africa, and all people need is a little boost.
A micro-franchisee starts making money as soon as the kiosk is on the ground. Henri aims to recruit more than 50,000 women, refugees, disabled and other unemployed people to spread the solar-powered Internet kiosks across Africa.“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. People in Rwanda are not often given opportunities.“
In order to bring this new technology to other African countries, ARED need to produce many more SHIRIKI HUBs. The challenge of doing business at the base of the pyramid doesn’t generate enough cash flow.
That is why ARED have started a crowd funding campaign with the goal of raising $10'000 to scale the business model from Rwanda across Africa:
With his current crowdfunding campaign, he is raising money, so that he can afford to produce more kiosks and help many more people across our continent.
With your support he will be able to produce more SHIRIKI HUBs, bring free Wifi and electricity to other countries and create many more jobs in areas which need it most! If you would like to see Internet access spread across Africa feel free to share our fundraising campaign with your friends and family.
Rise Africa Rise is your online guide to tech entrepreneurship and (social) innovation for African entrepreneurs, startups and businesses. Our aim is to provide you with valuable digital strategies, tools and insights to support you in building a world-class and competitive business in the 21st century.