Solar energy innovator creates cart that can charge 80 cell phones at once.
Nyakarundi always knew that he was not the type to sit at an 8-5 job, he always preferred being his own boss. Although he was born to refugee parents it didn’t stop him from pursuing his dreams of becoming a computer scientist. After studying computer science in the US he began his work and created his first start-up.
Returning to Rwanda or Burundi for holidays, Nyakarundi noticed that while many people had cell phones they often struggled to charge them.In Rwanda 70% of people have a phone but only 18% have electricity. Sketching the first design on a piece of paper, the entrepreneur devised a solar-powered kiosk that can be towed by bicycle and provides simultaneous charging for up to 80 phones.
His company known as African Renewable Energy Distributor operates under a micro-franchising system that leases the kiosks to agents.Micro franchisees earn money from mobile charging and selling add-ons such as mobile credit, government certificates and prepaid electricity.
There are currently 25 kiosks operating in Rwanda, many in rural areas where the population is dependent on cell phones to communicate and send money.But after four years of carefully testing his business model, Nyakarundi said he is now ready to seriously scale up. He plans to have between 600 and 800 kiosks in place by the next two years.
To run them, Nyakarundi says he looks for people who desperately lack employment opportunities.The agents make just a $100 down payment followed by $200 in installments to lease their kiosk from ARED. From that, the company says existing vendors are making between 30,000 to 85,000 Rwandan francs ($38-$107) a month — enough to pay rent and feed a family.But strikingly, for micro franchisees who are women or have disabilities, the opportunity is absolutely free.
With this technology in place, Nkyarundi has also developed software that will monitor and communicate with each kiosk — setting the company up for the expansion he dreams of.