Solar brings new opportunities to Frank
In Kenya and many other parts of Africa, motorcycle taxis (or ‘bodaboda’ – meaning ‘border to border’) are a low-cost way to get from town to town.
Traditionally, bodaboda drivers are self-employed individuals who have invested in a motorbike as a means of achieving an income.
Frank Kiema, 29, from Mlangoni, Kitui County in Kenya, where he lives and supports wife Angela and children James, aged 13, and five-year-old Hadassah. When first starting out, Frank earned on average KSh 1,200 per day after a 12-hour shift on his bike. He explains that the majority of his time was spent waiting for customers at a crowded bodaboda stage, the equivalent of a taxi rank.
New technology, new customers
Despite having the Uber app on his smartphone, Frank wasn’t able to take advantage of the app because keeping his mobile continually charged was costly and challenging as he’d have to travel to a kiosk in another village.
Only 4.8% of households in Kitui County have access to electricity so simple undertakings like charging a mobile phone usually involves significant expense and travel.
“It cost around KSh 100 per week for me to charge my phone, plus the fuel needed for the 4km round trip to the kiosk and back. Often I would choose to put fuel in my motorbike rather than use that money to charge my mobile,” explains Frank.
Pay-as-you-go solar from Azuri offered an affordable option for Frank and his family with the ability to make weekly top-ups to access clean and reliable power. Not only does the family benefit from light at night, Frank has the advantage of keeping his smartphone constantly charged.
Earning more and spending less
“Because of Azuri solar power I am able to keep my phone fully charged and I use the app to see customer pick-up and drop points. Having the Uber app gives me an advantage as very few drivers have the app or have a smartphone they keep charged”
With access to the Uber app and customers 24/7, Frank no longer needs to return to the bodaboda station so often and wait alongside the crowd of drivers for customers to approach them. Most of his customers are now finding him via the Uber app now and, as a result, Frank says he is earning around KSh 2,500 per day – over double his previous income.
“I would sometimes be waiting for over an hour for a customer to come to the busy bodaboda stage. Now … I can have a customer every 30 mins”
Solar driven business
Bodaboda is one of the most used means of transport in Kenya and the industry is worth around KSh2 billion a year with most bodaboda operators taking home around KSh 1,000 (~$9) per day each.
With business going so well, Frank says he is saving up to buy a new motorcycle.The extra income has also enabled Frank to send his children to a prestigious school nearby and he is also planning to build a second home for his family.
The Azuri Quad solar home lighting system which Frank has installed in his home comes complete with four powerful LED lights, rechargeable torch and radio and mobile charging port. He pays KSh 300 per week to access power. Once Frank completes payment on the system, all the energy generated will be free of charge and he will continue to benefit from connectivity.