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Mwanza 2
In this audio interview, we talk to Siten Mandalia, founder of Eternum Energy, a social enterprise that develops sustainable energy technology for Sub-Saharan African communities that are off the electricity grid.
 
Drawing on their research at Imperial College, United Kingdom, and on community feedback gathered during pilot projects in Malawi and Tanzania, Mandalia and his team created Solaris, a device that uses sunshine to charge items such as lamps and mobile phones. Through a network of mentors and partners, Eternum identifies and trains local entrepreneurs in off-grid communities who rent the kit and charge local people to use it. Take a look at the image gallery below to see Solaris in action in Mwanza, Tanzania. 

A demonstration of Eternum Energys Solaris mobile phone charging station in a village in Mwanza region, northern Tanzania. Entrepreneurs can rent the kit and charge local people to use it. As well as phones, the solar units can be used to charge lamps and other devices that have USB sockets

Eternum Energy

Across Tanzania, just 15 per cent of people had electricity access in 2010. In rural areas, this figure falls to around two per cent, so off-grid energy solutions are vital, especially as mobile phones are often the only available form of communications technology. With Solaris, people no longer have to travel long distances to charge their phones

Eternum Energy

A Solaris trainer talks to a potential customer. Those hiring the devices get regular technical and business support from local mentors. Regular contact with mentors also enables entrepreneurs to give feedback on the kit and how it could be adapted and developed

Eternum Energy

A demonstration in a village in Mwanza region. According to Eternum Energy field surveys, around 90 per cent of people who pay to charge their phones use them to support business activities such as those selling farm produce or trading goods

Eternum Energy

Masunga Ndongo runs a small grocery shop in Nyahiti, a village in Mwanza region. The shop makes US$4 a day before costs, which include buying kerosene for lighting. By renting a Solaris device for US$4 a week, daily turnover is increased by half and saves money previously spent on kerosene by switching to rechargeable electric lighting

Eternum Energy

The Solaris device uses a text messaging system that enables both users and mentors to monitor how much energy is used and to track payments

Eternum Energy

The idea is that mentorship programmes for local entrepreneurs will build a widening network of skills in communities across Tanzania and the wider Sub-Saharan Africa, including among Africas growing population of young people

Eternum Energy
This podcast and image gallery kick off Insight on Light, a SciDev.Net series that will mark the UN’s International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. Throughout the year, we will interview researchers, entrepreneurs and designers working at the interface of light technology and global development. The series will showcase diverse light-based technologies designed to benefit people and development in low-income countries — for example by meeting basic energy needs, delivering medical services or aiding communication.