Tanzania’s Juabar crowdfunding to boost network of solar entrepreneurs

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Tanzanian company Juabar, which designs and builds solar charging kiosks before leasing them to a network of entrepreneurs who use them to offer electricity services, is crowdfunding in order to increase the size of its network.

Juabar currently leases out 30 kiosks to Tanzanians, but is looking to raise US$15,000 through crowdfunding in order to increase that to 50.

The company designs and build the kiosks, which are then leased out to individuals to run as businesses, usually in the form of mobile phone charging stations.

“Some of our entrepreneurs are also offering media centres to show news, movies and educational content as well as adding on retail sales to their businesses,” Juabar co-founder Sachi DeCou told Disrupt Africa.

In rural Tanzania only two per cent of the population has access to electricity, while mobile phone penetration is over 60 per cent. Juabar believes this disparity between electricity access and mobile phone penetration means people spend too much time and money travelling to charging locations, and is looking to provide business opportunities in Tanzanian communities that lack convenient electricity access.

“The original concept for Juabar was developed during research into the energy experience in Tanzania with the intention of developing ways to proliferate solar in communities as an alternative to kerosene,” DeCou said.

“A major insight from this early research was that people needed an electricity solution for charging mobile phones. By giving them a public experience with solar via community mobile phone charging they would be able to engage directly with the value of solar technology and to better understand how the technology works before having to take the risk of spending limited resources on their own solar products.”

The company received initial funding through the Centre for Art and Public Life at California College of the Arts, and has since focused on creating a network of entrepreneurs who operate charging kiosks across the Morogoro and Pwani regions of Tanzania. It is now looking to expand this.

“We see Juabar charging kiosks as the beginning of an energy ecosystem in which we develop engaged, skilled community members who can facilitate electricity access in their communities, first with mobile phone charging and then as demand grows they can add on additional service to meet community needs,” DeCou said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent’s most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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