By Philip Emase
A Kenyan telecommunications firm has launched a cheap solar powered mobile phone for the low income market. Dubbed Simu Ya Solar, the phone was developed by Safaricom Limited in partnership with Chinese telecoms giant ZTE. It costs a modest $40, has a built-in solar panel that taps energy from the sun and comes with a conventional charger. It also provides basic internet access and its battery can last up to 24 hours when fully charged.
The eco-friendly phone is already retailing in various parts of Kenya, barely two months after Samsung began selling the world’s first commercially released solar-powered cell phone in India. It comes at an opportune time, when Kenya is grappling with power rationing after poor rains led to critically low water levels at its main hydroelectricity generation dams.
Kenya depends on hydroelectric power for about 60% of its energy needs. The current shortage has forced its government to impose nationwide power cuts, but even so, only about 15 per cent of the country’s 37 million people have access to electricity under normal circumstances.
“This solar charged phone will come in handy particularly in the rural parts without grid electricity,” Safaricom’s CEO Michael Joseph said. Simu Ya Solar will also be released to other African markets apart from Kenya.
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