Econet Solar International (ESI), a subsidiary of Econet Wireless International, today announced at AfricaCom that it plans to light-up at least 125,000 homes with its Home Power Stations® (HPS) across the African continent in 2014. The device, designed to harness solar energy in order to provide affordable, clean and safe lighting to homes in off-grid communities, is already being successfully used by approximately 8,000 people in 2,000 homes across Zimbabwe.
The Home Power Station uses solar energy to power wireless LED light bulbs, charge GSM mobile phones and to provide the power necessary to use or charge a range of other accessories including mosquito repellents, TVs, fans and LED candles. First launched in Durban at COP17, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the HPS has now been fully tested and the latest generation comes with a range of new features including a battery twice the size of the original model.
Econet Solar as a subsidiary of a wireless operator has access to a well-established customer base in a number of territories where it operates. More importantly, it also has the infrastructure needed to provide a prepaid option for HPS customers (the IN platform and the GSM Network). Additionally, Econet Wireless has an established retail footprint with shops and concessions from which it will provide the HPS. As a GSM operator, Econet customers already have prepaid accounts with the Group which will enable quick and easy credit vetting. When a customer is approved, they become registered as users of the HPS and connected to the network without the need for a substantial payment at the outset.
Econet Solar understands the limitations of its customers and has taken steps to ensure that its revolutionary and life-altering products can be accessed by those who most need it. “Many of our customers simply do not have the money to pay cash upfront for our device which costs in the region of $200,” said Luc Tanoh CEO of Econet Solar. “However they do have the ability to pay for candles, kerosene lamps and others sources of heat and light. Instead of asking customers to pay all of the cost upfront and overburdening them, we ask them for a small deposit of between $10 and $30. Thereafter, they then make smaller payments of around $0.25 per day which ensures the Home Power Station remains affordable.”
In research conducted by the company, Econet Solar has determined that its customer base spends on average, $8 to $10 each month for candles, kerosene lamps and other sources of lighting. Not only are these traditional options potentially dangerous but they are damaging to the environment. Now customers can pre-pay their power, lighting their homes and charging their phones in the same way they top up their prepaid airtime.
Tanoh added, “We are very aware of the absence of a reliable power supply in many of the countries in which we operate. Not only do millions of people not have access to clean and safe lighting but, often our customers have to walk long distances to find a place where they can charge their phones. That’s something we want to and are changing.”
“We wanted to offer people a cleaner, elegant and safer solution to suit their needs for lighting and charging phones,” said Tanoh. “And by combining the expertise we have developed across the Group over the years, we have developed and refined the HPS which can now be widely adopted by customers across the continent.”