Vodacom Tanzania has partnered energy firm Fenix International to launch solar- and bicycle-powered mobile phone chargers. The ‘ReadySet’ mobile chargers go on sale next month, providing a solution for millions of off-grid mobile customers who often travel miles to access electricity. In Tanzania, only 14% of the population are connected to the electricity grid, while globally, more than 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity, and there are calculated to be 600 million off-grid mobile phone users who spend an estimated USD10 billion per year on charging phones using petrol generators and car batteries. Vodacom’s group parent Vodafone alone is estimated to have over 100 million off-grid subscribers worldwide.
The ReadySet costs around USD200 and is largely aimed at local entrepreneurs. Initial models feature a solar panel charger which can charge up to ten phones a day, but the bicycle dynamo – to be launched later – promises to fully charge a handset with less than ten minutes of cycling. A universal battery charger provided with ReadySet means that users can leave just the mobile battery with a local vendor to charge. Rene Meza, managing director of Vodacom Tanzania, said: ‘ReadySet is both a commercial opportunity and a simple technological solution aimed at significantly improving the lives of off-grid mobile customers and small business owners seeking an additional revenue stream.’