By Mark Kawalya
According to a World Bank report, the worldwide market for home solar systems was worth $1 billion in 2016, but due to rising demand in Africa, it is expected to grow to as much as $8 billion by 2022.
Wassha, a Japanese startup, has partnered with a network of solar-powered kiosks in Tanzania to hire out rechargeable LED lanterns to locals in areas that have no access to the main electricity grid. The company lends solar panels to kiosk owners and a host of electric gadgets to last-mile customers who would otherwise not be able to keep them running due to a lack of access to electricity.
Kiosk owners are supplied with the gadgets at no cost by Wassha, which they rent out to customers who remit the rental fees to Wassha using smartphones. The LED lanterns are charged using solar photovoltaic systems that have been preinstalled at the kiosks.
The locals rent out the lanterns for 500 Tanzanian shillings (22 cents) each night, which is about the same as what it costs to keep a kerosene lamp running. The advantage of the lamps is that they provide clean light that doesn’t cause the health problems that are associated with burning kerosene. The lanterns are multi-purpose and can also be used as an energy source for charging mobile phones.
Within three years, the company plans to increase its supply of solar-powered lanterns by 400%, from 2000 units at the end of the year to 10,000 units within three years.
As of 2020, the world had a population of 7.79 billion people, of which 940 million people were living without electricity. Among the 1.34 billion people living in Africa, 770 million cannot access electricity due to poor power grid infrastructure development.
Wassha deploys an off-grid power source called a solar home system that comprises solar panels that are installed on the rooftops of kiosks. This type of power generation is dubbed the “democratization of energy” by those behind its adoption.
Sosipita, a kiosk owner, started working with Wassha in 2020 and currently hires out 90 fishing lights every day. “Originally, I used to rent motorcycles and bicycles, charge mobile phones, and provide e-commerce services. I met a sales employee from Wassha, and I learned about Wassha’s business. “Since there is no investment risk, I decided to start Wassha’s lantern rental service with my kiosk,” he says.