When U.S. entrepreneur John Anderson visited Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township, he sold a handheld solar charger to a resident for $37 – roughly a month’s wage – within minutes of being offered.
The resident said he bought the charger because the batteries on his family’s phones were consistently dead and he would make money by charging others’ phones, according to a report in DailyCamera.
Now the Colorado solar technology entrepreneur hopes to put a dent in Africa’s power poverty by selling lots of hand-held phone chargers on the continent, DailyCamera reports.
When Anderson traveled to South Africa, he realized that although mobile technology use is booming in the continent, Africans also face limitations in finance and electricity.
A faculty member of University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, Anderson helped develop a low-cost solar charger for portable devices. He and colleagues were able to use a photovoltaic price crash to their advantage and created a design that they patented, DailyCamera reports.
They formed Boulder-based World Panel Inc., then entered into a joint venture with Golden-based OneSource IML, a provider of manufacturing and supply chain services.
The resulting company, OneWorld Solar LLC, plans to launch several handheld solar chargers with the initial target market of the hundreds of millions of off-grid cell phone owners in Africa, Anderson said.
“Really if you’re going to make any kind of a dent in energy poverty, you’re going to have to be big and you have to be scalable,” he said.
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Anderson did not disclose the prices of the solar chargers, but said they were made for people who earn $1,500 per year. The cost of a charger could be quickly recovered, he said, because owners could sell the electricity from it by charging others’ phones.
“It’s a very interesting technology and an extremely interesting market,” Anderson said. “It’s very fun and rewarding.”
World Panel is in the process of raising its first round of funding. The $1 million round is “almost full” and expected to close in November, Anderson said.
Formed as a “triple-bottom line” company – one with a focus on “people, planet and profit” – World Panel’s potential is great as there are millions of off-grid cell phones across the globe, the report said.
“We call it World Panel because everyone can use one in the world, but where do we start?” Anderson said. “You got this great lake here and you’re going to drop a bucket of water in it.
“Our mission is personal solar for all and where we go after Africa, we’ll get pulled into it.”