• Written by Jo Pratt
    2 June 2015

Team 850

Above: members of the WakaWaka team attend a training workshop on Akvo FLOW in Kigali to learn how to use it and how to train their colleagues to use it. 6 October 2014. Photo by Tim Janssen.

WakaWaka is an impact driven, social venture that fights to abolish energy poverty throughout the world. It develops, manufactures and markets high-tech low-cost solar powered lamps and chargers. Proceeds made from selling WakaWaka products in developed markets at competitive prices are used to make them available to off-grid communities around the world at an affordable rate.

Pilot project

Virtual Grid is WakaWaka’s first venture into the Rwandan solar market. It involves the creation of an innovative new sales model designed to overcome barriers to service access while supporting the local economy. It uses prepaid technology to overcome the high upfront costs of solar-powered energy, similar to the payment system already proven by mobile phones. Weekly payments for kerosene, candles and mobile phone charging are instead diverted to a safe, clean and affordable energy alternative. The WakaWaka Power, a durable, lightweight and compact solar device that can charge virtually any type of (smart)phone or small electronic device within a few hours and provide up to 150 hours of safe, sustainable light.

WakaWaka Powers are sold through local dealers, providing new business opportunities in the community. After a one-time deposit on the WakaWaka Power, users buy weekly scratch cards to activate the unit on a pay-as-you-go basis. They text the code on the scratch card along with a unique code from their WakaWaka Power, to a free local service number. A text is instantly returned containing an activation code for their unit. Gradually they pay off the cost of the WakaWaka Power unit through the purchase of the scratch cards, meaning after a period of time it becomes theirs to own.

The WakaWaka Power provides further income-generating opportunities as owners can charge mobile phones in their community for a small fee. It also provides light to work, travel and study after dark.

Assessing needs and tracking sales

Akvo FLOW is being used to measure the impact of the pilot project. A baseline survey of 9,000 households in the Rwandan districts of Gicumbi, Kamonyi and Rulindo in October 2014 helped to assess the need for the service, appropriate price points and the existing use of mobile phones and other light and energy sources. Follow up surveys are tracking WakaWaka Power sales and service use.

Sales of the WakaWaka Power units to dealers and from dealers to customers are recorded via Akvo FLOW. Akvo is in discussions with WakaWaka to develop a simplified version of Akvo FLOW for use by dealers themselves, without the need for survey enumerators.

The results of this pilot project will be used to develop an appropriate marketing strategy for the roll-out of the scheme across Rwanda, and then to other African countries.

Below: WakaWaka’s video explains how Virtual Grid works.

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