As darkness descends in Kenya, cities are lively and bright but in rural areas nearly everyone depends on kerosene lamps and candles for light. These are costly, polluting and a fire hazard. Millions of people in rural Africa use mobile phones but most have to walk miles to get them charged at a phone shop. But now a safe and affordable solution has arrived in the form of cheap, durable products charged by the sun.
ToughStuff International is a socially-driven enterprise selling a modular range of low-cost solar products for off-grid customers across Africa. A PV module costing just US$9 can bring all the promise of a lamp, mobile phone charger and radio connector. Already 140,000 have been sold and 740,000 people are enjoying the advantages.
ToughStuff distributes its products through conventional retailers such as supermarkets and mobile phone shops, in cities and rural areas. And its ‘Business in a Box’ partnership with NGOs and microfinance groups helps to set up rural entrepreneurs in more remote areas, to sell products, charge phones or rent lamps. ToughStuff also supplies products to relief agencies for use in disaster in countries like Haiti and Pakistan. The business has set its sights high, aiming to bring its products to 33 million low income people within four years.