Tanzanian Communities Electrified by Mobisol
On the Tanzanian Maasai steppe, infrastructure is basic. Dirt roads are uneven, water is fetched from afar, and the electricity grid is nowhere near to be found. The cost of bringing infrastructure out here is enormous, and Tanzanians don’t expect that will happen any time soon.
Just ask Mary. She lives with her five children and twenty-four other extended family members in her tribe’s housing complex, and she decided to invest in a Mobisol Solar Home System (SHS) rather than wait for the grid to arrive. Her husband, a cattle herdsman, was able to afford the SHS because of a three-year installment plan which allows him to pay off the loan using his mobile phone.
The family uses the system for light, to listen to the radio, and to watch TV. “The children now have bright light to do homework,” Mary explains. “They do not use the kerosene lamp anymore, whose fumes made them cough at night. We now feel more connected to the rest of the world through radio and TV.” For her, another prime benefit of having electricity is that she can charge her mobile phone to reach family members while they are out tending to the cattle.
Another Mobisol customer, Mr. Teti, lives in the lush pastoralist area of Madji ya Chai in northern Tanzania. Mr. Teti is a businessman who owns four small businesses, including a small grocery store, a phone charging station, a barber shop, and a tailoring center located in a building complex at a busy intersection in town. He runs all four businesses using a single 200 watt (W) Mobisol SHS and a few of Mobisol’s DC appliances. Using the Mobicharger, for example, he charges 10 customers’ phones simultaneously. The solar-powered haircutter allowed him to start his barbershop, which is now a center point of community exchanges in the neighborhood.
“I love that I make money with my solar system and can easily pay off the installments with what I earn,” he explains. “The system was installed right after I signed up — and if there are any problems I can just call the customer hotline and they will send a technician to fix the issue.”
Around one-third of Mobisol’s customers use their Mobisol system to create an incremental income. In addition, institutions such as rural health stations, community centers, and schools are increasingly turning to solar.
Ms. Songeti, the head teacher at Elishama Secondary School in Arusha, recently acquired a 200W and an 80W Mobisol solar system. The systems illuminate all of the classrooms and dormitories in the boarding school for about 60 students, and also run a radio, a TV, and phone chargers for the teachers. As Ms. Songeti explains, “The systems can power laptops and an internet router. Being able to access knowledge via the internet becomes increasingly important — both for teachers and for students, as an essential skill for their future.”
Sjors Martens, CCO of Mobisol Tanzania, remarked: “High-quality solar systems are a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to the grid. Fortunately, the continued support of initiatives such as Power Africa has contributed to a growing number of entrepreneurs and educators striving to turn to off-grid solar.”
To date, Mobisol, a Power Africa partner, has brought electricity to 500,000 people in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Kenya. The company is headquartered in Germany, where the components are engineered and tested, and where new appliances are being developed. Over 85% of the Mobisol workforce is operating in East Africa. So far, the Mobisol Akademie has trained over 1,500 people in solar technologies and of those, approximately 1,200 people work for the company today.
With an eye to the future, Mobisol is also developing larger systems. The Solar Work Station, for example, with a total power output of 800W, is a system running energy-intensive appliances such as welding machines or electric drills and saws.