In rural Kenya, electricity sockets are hard to find but pedal power is everywhere—which is why inventor Pascal Katana has come up with an ingenious method to charge mobile phones using the energy generated by bicycles.
Spark Africa is always looking for new businesses and surprising initiatives. Today, we report from the Kenyan countryside.
Kenya. Population: 38.8 million. GNP per capita: USD$547. Rural population: 90 percent. Electricity: 10 percent of the rural population.
Electricity doesn't come out of a wall here, let alone a phone connection. Therefore, a mobile phone is useful, but how do you charge it?
CRISTINE AKELO [Spark Africa Kenya]
It is estimated currently, 17.5 million people out of the 38.5 million people in Kenya's population own a mobile handset, and thus, they need to be charged.
PASCAL KATANA [Inventor, Smart Charger]
We'll reduce the problem that is being encountered in our rural areas.
Students of the university of Nairobi came up with a solution to this. The smart charger is easy to use: just connect it to the dynamo of your bike. The apparatus will convert the resulting energy into electricity, which can be used to charge a mobile phone. After about an hour of cycling, the phone is then charged. Normally, charging your phone is more time-consuming. Sometimes, you have to walk hours before finding a charging location. Small shops with solar panels or batteries charge it for you and charge USD$1. However, even the man who profits from charging other people's phones seems to be happy with the smart charger.
I'm happy for the people who can now charge their phone while riding a bicycle. It won't affect my business. Customers will keep on coming. It's important to take care of each other. We all suffer because of the electricity problem.
The bicycle is a popular means of transport in east Africa, which makes the mobile charger simple and effective. For personal, business, or just for transport means, the inventors of the charger are already working with professional cyclists and bicycle couriers.
PETER NJOROGE [Bicycle courier]
This mobile charger is good. It will definitely help us. I place this charger to my bike. The device charges while I drive.
The smart charger has recently been brought to the market. For one charger, it costs about 350 Kenyan shillings, which is about USD$4. The inventors are hoping for international success.
Tanzania, Ivory Coast -- they have really requested for that smart charger.
Pascal and Jeremiah will have to look at their options in the coming period, because there is a great chance that this device will be readily available in the years to come. There is one thing they do not need to worry about: everybody here rides a bicycle.