Phone charging made simple

RWANDA's Henri Nyakarundi founded African Renewable Energy Distributor (ARED) to give renewable energy solutions to the public and private sectors in his home country Rwanda after failing to find a place to charge his phone from. However, he never imagined that his idea would ever cross the border.
The kiosk has many charging ports. This technology has been well received in Rwanda and Burundi. (Patrick Buchana)
The kiosk has many charging ports. This technology has been well received in Rwanda and Burundi. (Patrick Buchana)

RWANDA's Henri Nyakarundi founded African Renewable Energy Distributor (ARED) to give renewable energy solutions to the public and private sectors in his home country Rwanda after failing to find a place to charge his phone from. However, he never imagined that his idea would ever cross the border.

Now with great success in Rwanda and Burundi, he is aiming at launching a similar project in Kenya and across the East African region. His Mobile Charging Kiosk dubbed SharjaVuba is set to help thousands who are not connected to grip electricity with alternative energy from solar power and photovoltaic technology.
The business

Nyakarundi is implementing a franchise business model, where business minded individuals will pay ARED Rwf 245,000 or Rwf 350,000 to purchase a kiosk, plus a monthly charge of $45 to service and support the device.

The lower-end cost would supply an individual with a kiosk, powered by solar energy to charge up to 20 phones at a time, while the Rwf 350,000 package allows one to operate a “smarter” kiosk which can also sell mobile phones, airtime and electricity.

“I really wanted to bring value to the business,” Nyakarundi said. “I wanted to design and engineer my own product. I didn’t want to just import something from China.”

Consumers who want to charge their device at one of the kiosks only have to pay less than Rwf 100.Users can also visit a kiosk, leave their phone charging and pick it later.

“When one applies for a franchise, they must also present two people who will be running the kiosk. We also do a background check,” Nyakarundi says, adding that his focus is mainly the people at the bottom of the pyramid.

He says he is in talks with a microfinance organization over a potential partnership meant to support applicants at the beginning.

Nyakarundi has created and kept ARED afloat using money from his previous business in the United States but he believes $250,000 is needed to cover operational costs for two years, employ more staff and order 100 kiosks.

The eventual plan is to roll out the kiosks in more African countries (New Guinea and Zambia have already expressed interest) but for now those 100 devices will be split evenly between Rwanda and Burundi.

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