ECONET Wireless subsidiary, Econet Solar has launched a solar power device which the company says will help light up most of rural Africa and other areas without access to reliable electricity supplies.
The company said the Home Power Station will provide lighting, and power to charge mobile phones, on a pre-paid basis, in the same way airtime is purchased for mobile phones.
Officials said the device removes the high upfront costs which have held back the development of solar energy in Africa as it will be available at a small cost with customers paying for the electricity generated as they use it.
Said Econet Wireless founder and executive chairman, Strive Masiyiwa: “Whilst there are already well-intentioned solar powered lighting systems on the market, the reality is that they are just too expensive for people to afford. We are launching the Home Power Station to change all that.
“The Home Power Station uses proven technology in a revolutionary way in order to make power available on a pre-paid basis, just like airtime on a cell phone.
“Forecasters expect that Africa will have 735 million cell phone users by the end of next year and we’ll be looking to leverage the proven ability of telecoms companies like Econet Wireless to roll-out this product quickly. People who are today living without access to reliable and sustainable power for lighting will have it on a pre-paid basis from next year."
Econet says the product will begin trials in the coming weeks and with commercial available expected in the first half of 2012.
In a statement, the company said it expects the product to help light up the “70 percent of Africa that does not already have access to electricity”.
“The product contains a SIM card – the same as those used in cell phone handsets – which enables the device to communicate with the cellular network and in turn makes it possible for the customer to pre-paid for energy usage, in the same way that they currently pay for airtime on their cell phone,” Econet Solar said.
“It has been designed to supply, on a pre-paid basis, affordable lighting for small homes and cell phone charging.”