Rural Kenyans have been provided with a cheap, pollution-free solar lighting system alternative as opposed to kerosene-fuelled lamps.
M-Kopa Solar, a mobile technology group, is providing credit to low-income earners to buy the D.light solar home system, a system which otherwise would be too expensive for them. The D.light solar system consists of a four-watt rooftop solar panel; a control box that attaches to the wall of a home or business; three bright, adjustable lights; a mobile phone charging station; and a base station that manages and displays the user’s credit. It also uses embedded sim cards enabled by East African telecommunications company Safaricom.
Most people in rural Kenya use kerosene-fuelled lamps for lighting their homes, which is not only hazardous and expensive, but also creates indoor pollution. According to studies, nearly 80% of households depend on kerosene for lighting because they are not linked to the national electricity grid, which does not reach many rural communities and requires a connection fee of at least $412.
Research done by The World Health Organisation has shown that inhaling fumes from fuels, including the coal and biomass used to power stoves and lamps, has the same effects on health as smoking two packets of cigarettes a day.
Jesse Moore, MD at M-Kopa Solar, says there is a demand for the product. “The company was established in 2011 and we began offering the product commercially in June 2012; since then we have sold 1,000 units. We are giving people a modern, cleaner and longer-lasting technology for less than what they would spend on kerosene or another inefficient substitute.”
According to the company, its system works out cheaper than the conventional kerosene lamp. “Kerosene lamps cost about $0.65 a day and people have to pay fees to have their mobile phones charged at places that have electricity. By comparison, M-Kopa’s solar system costs $199. Clients make a down payment of $29 and then daily instalments of $0.46 until it’s paid off. As long as they keep making payments, the system provides free light and power. Once it is paid off clients then own the system outright,” Moore states.
The company plans to boost clients in Kenya to 100,000 from about 7,500 now, and expand abroad in future. “East Africa is the right market for us. I wouldn’t be interested in countries where there is no mobile money yet. What I bet on is four or five years from now there will be a lot more mobile money happening,” Moore concluded.