ARED (African Renewable Energy Distributor) offers a means to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots of electricity in East Africa. It all started when I took a trip to Burundi. It became almost impossible to find a reliable way to charge my cell phone, but after a few days I was back home and the minor inconvenience had passed. It dawned on me a week later that, while I had the luxury of returning home to a stable electrical grid, SOME of the people of Burundi lived each and every day without that service. What presented an inconvenience for me presented an insurmountable roadblock to consistent communication outside of Burundian’s neighborhood.
a man whose family hails from Rwanda, just north of Burundi, this struck home.
After weeks of research I could find nothing that offered solutions for
reliable, low-cost energy for anything more than an individual. While a
household solar panel sounds nice on paper, it’s naïve to think that someone
living on $2/day could afford that. So I decided to build my own solution.
In 2009 I paired up with a designer to fill that vital gap in energy availability. Together we came up with a blueprint that would offer the operator mobility, dependability, simplicity, and—most importantly—a low-cost means for him or her to generate an income. In 2010 I found an engineer to help me bring this idea to life. And so the Mobile Charging Kiosk (MCK) was born.
Mobile Charging Kiosk (MCK) Prototype Features:
· Two adjustable 40 watt solar panels (collapsible for storage)
· Charging space for 16 phones for all major phone brands
· Display tray that folds vertically to secure charging phones
· Powerful battery to store energy collected throughout the day
· Manual crank to charge battery at night or on cloudy days
· Two mountain bike tires to transport over rough dirt roads
· AC power outlets to charge other appliances
moved back to my home country, Rwanda, to get the project off the ground,
investing all of my money, my time, and, effectively, my life into this project. I’m happy to say that, at the moment, we
can’t keep up with demand. I’m even happier to see the same faces coming back
day after day to our MCK. What seemed like a simple solution for people like
“top off” their batteries had grown to something entirely different. As more and more people came to charge their batteries from 0-100%, I realized that the MCK was their only source of electricity. My customers would come in at first light, head to work, run back to us to retrieve their charged phone, and run straight back to work. The infrastructure in Rwanda simply does not provide reliable electricity to everyone's homes, meaning their uncharged mobile phones are useless, meaning they remain out of contact with friends, family, coworkers, and business.
We produced five units of the prototype in the past six months, and our operators have already helped us work out the kinks. These five will remain in operation, serving both rural and urban markets, but the time has already come to cut the fat and streamline our product.
Meet the new and improved MCK:
We trimmed down the body to give it a sleek, eye-catching chassis to attract customers. By swapping the two thin wheels with a thicker, sturdier, all-terrain tire we’ve allowed better control when hauling the MCK with a bike. This also enabled us to train the wheel directly to the kinetic charging element: now the battery will charge while the operator transports the machine each day. With a simplified panel system, the operator can more logically organize charging phones and our secondary products (airtime credit, mobile phones, etc) on shelves.
Unfortunately, designers and engineers don’t work for free. We’ve set our franchise fees as low as we can to support our franchisees, but we need help to do the following:
1. Finish the design: We’ve improved the MCK with the new specs above, but it’s not 100% complete yet. We want to expand our fleet sooner rather than later, but not at the expense of a quality product.
2. Expand!: ARED’s goal is to provide reliable energy to rural areas, but to do that we need more MCKs. Our model also requires scale in order to achieve profitability. The more machines we have, the closer we are to breaking even. This campaign will send 20 machines to franchisees living in rural areas.
Make this more affordable: As stated above, we’ve done all we can right
now to make this an affordable business venture for low-income entrepreneurs,
but the fee we charge to keep ourselves afloat still prevents many would-be
franchisees from joining. You donation will make the difference in allowing new
entrepreneurs to employ themselves through ARED.
What We Need
We need $30,000 to start Phase II of our project. Phase I designed, implemented, and tested the prototype model, and the lessons we learned from that will be applied to Phase II.
Here’s what that money does:
· $10,000 will cover our fees to designers and engineers that are breaking their backs to maximize the efficiency of the MCK design.
· $20,000 will purchase the next 20 MCKs in ARED’s fleet. Each device costs $1,000 to produce. ARED will pay the taxes and shipping if you can help us provide those rural areas with MCKs.
By supporting this campaign you have a number of amazing perks to choose from including your name on the device, a certificate and photo of the device you help purchase, and even a trip to visit us.
we don’t reach our entire goal with this campaign, we will still use all of
this money for the project and your impact will still have the same effect.
According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, the percentage of families in the country that owned at least one mobile phone jumped from 6.2 to 45.2 (an increase of 39%) in only five years (2006-2011). While the market of mobile users is rapidly expanding, the number of households with access to Rwanda's electrical grid is not. The country aims to expand electrical grid access from 16% to 50% of the population by 2017 but, for the time-being, around 40% of households in Rwanda have a mobile phone but no steady electricity to charge it. Current expansion rates suggest that mobile penetration will continue to outgrow electrical penetration, and the number of mobile users without electricity in their homes will increase accordingly.
Our vision for ARED is simple: create an environmentally sustainable product of our own design, engineering, and production. Producing a product for Africans in Africa will greatly reduce the lag time we currently face in delivering our machines and, more importantly, it will create jobs for Africans. MCKs will be produced by African employees and delivered to African franchisees, fighting local unemployment and promoting entrepreneurship in the areas that need it most.
Other Ways You Can Help
We understand that not every person can finance a whole MCK on their own, so we ask that you support ARED’s mission in any way you can—even if that means just spreading the word and making some noise about our campaign! Tell your friends, tell your family: we’re looking for franchisees in East Africa and for investors worldwide!