Africa has proven to be the destination when it comes to harnessing solar energy to empower communities. Many countries such as Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda have been involved in this movement. Mbegu Solar is one such company that is working with harnessing solar energy to fill a technology gap in Kenya. Kenya is a coastal country in the North-eastern part of Africa, known as a tourist destination it is also popular for its tea, landscapes and biodiversity. Off-late, Kenya is witnessing many innovations in technology and renewable energy.
According to Datareportal, in 2019 there were 52.06 million mobile phone connections in Kenya which amounts to 98% of the population of the country. This large number of mobile phone connections is possible due to the affordability of mobile phones along with their data plans. However, this huge supply of mobile phones is met with a technology gap, where charging seems to be the biggest problem for rural Kenya. People who own a mobile phone have to walk for hours to find a charging shop and pay a small fee and yet it is not as fast.
In the past year Mbegu Solar has been working closely with the county of Homa Bay in South Western Kenya along Lake Victoria. With a population of almost 1.3 million, the County has big plans for the coming decade. According to the previously drafted County Integrated Development Plan, (2013-2017) the primary source of energy is firewood(57.6%) and kerosene (94.6%) collected for cooking and lighting respectively. While availability is not the real question here, it is more about its affordability. Despite the rural electrification program covering urban and rural centres, most of the people’s homes are far away and most cannot afford being connected to the grid. This is the gap that Mbegu tries to fill through the provision of Solar powered charging stations for the people, local businessmen and women entrepreneurs are empowered.
The technology gap of charging mobile phones is large, and apart from Mbegu Solar there are other companies who are striving to work towards the same goal. In the past year Mbegu has managed to empower 3 local businessmen in Homa Bay while being able to charge 28 mobile phones over a span of 14 days. While our impact is small at the moment it is only a matter of time before we can reach more people with this intervention. Keeping this in mind Mbegu has big plans for 2021 in Homa Bay. Together with local partnerships we hope to reach more people in rural Kenya such as schools and women.
No product or place is perfect. The context of Homa Bay is rural and poses a lot of challenges. Through rigorous testing of our product in the coming few months we hope to overcome these challenges together with our team in Kenya and hope to share more about our stories!
If you want to know more about Homa Bay and rural Kenya or if you liked this brief insight in the place we work, drop a comment below! We look forward to engaging with our readers!
Homa Bay County Integrated Development Plan, 2013-2017
Bokfors, S. (2018). Awareness on Solar Energy in Kenya