In the villages of Kenya many people live in simple mud houses. For a long time, their light comes from lamps with oil or other fuels. Candles are also used. The luminous efficacy is very low. If you still come today to houses, whose inhabitants use the old possibilities, it smells and the fire danger is recognizable. However, two things have changed here. Mobile technology and solar energy.
It is not uncommon in the history of corporations that their portfolios take other than known developments. They also adopt to the needs. Anyway, in Africa they jump into some gaps.
Safaricom, one of the largest mobile operators in Kenya, offers clean light. Really. With the help of a solar system, a so-called “M-kopa starter solar energy set”, Kenyans can purchase a mini solar system by hire purchase.
M-kopa means that you buy a product step by step. Safaricom also uses its own payment system M-Pesa. A system that allows you to pay by mobile phone, more precisely by USSD code. Simple telephones are enough. Smartphones and apps are not required.
So you buy the Solar starter set for 1.800 KSH, which is about 15 Euro. For this you take the hardware home with you. These include a solar battery, which has approximately the power of two to three power banks, an additional plug for charging mobile phones, two 1.2 watt lamps to provide light and the 8-watt solar panel.
Once you’ve set it up at home, it still remains dark. Now you have to pay 50 KSH, about 40 Eurocent, through M-Pesa for 230 days a day, so that the light is available. You don’t have to pay daily. The 230 days are also redeemable with interruption. In the end Safaricom wants to receive about 13,300 KSH for the plant. That is then approx. 120 Euro. In the countryside, a well-paid farm worker who has a simple job will at best receive 50 Euro per month. Daily wages can reach 20 to 30 Euro per month. 120 euros is a hefty sum. However, if you do not pay for a day, it remains dark. Mobile phone technology makes it possible to control the receipt of payments.
The light naturally improves life in the villages. Electricity from national energy companies is expensive. The lines are not everywhere and access outside the roads has to be paid dearly. M-kopa, M-Pesa and Safaricom’s SolarSet allow poorer families to obtain energy at lower cost in the long term. Light and smartphones or mobile phones have become an integral part of everyday life. In the opinion of those affected, this has also improved a lot for education. Children can now study longer.
In the meantime, however, there are also other suppliers on the market. There will be competition. At the moment the prices are not really cheaper. But Kenya stays on the move.