WakaWaka is a different kind company. From crowdsourced funding to develop their products to creating a virtual power grid in Rwanda, WakaWaka seeks to share the power of the sun to create social good, they are both a business and a foundation.

A member of the Clinton Global Initiative, they are both a company and a foundation. Through their creative approach they sell products to the developed world to directly aid humanitarian relief, while also offering innovative and sustainable business models to serve the needs and empower those in the developing world. They’ve brought light to over one million people.

Light and Power from the Sun

WakaWaka means “Shine Bright” in Swahili. It’s fitting, as the company seeks to help more than 1.5 billion people in the world who live in darkness after sundown.

Producing highly efficient and rugged solar-powered light and power devices, WakaWaka products are perfectly suited to Americans on a backcountry hike, Syrians in a refugee camp or Rwandans looking to light their home or power their mobile.

Empowering Light

With WakaWaka’s ‘Share the Sun’ business model, every device sold in the developing world results in the donation of a solar lamp to humanitarian causes around the world.

The WakaWaka Light is a super efficient solar-powered rugged LED lamp that can be hung, stand or be slipped over a bottle top. A one day solar charge powers the bright LED light for up to 150 hours, illuminating the lives of those living in the face of natural disasters or violent strife. For women and children living in dangerous circumstances, a simple journey to the lavatory at night without light can be a life and death outing. The Share the Sun program helps to make millions of lives safer.

WakaWaka in use

The company’s second product, the WakaWaka Power+ adds a cell phone and tablet charger to the LED light, all powered by the sun. As with the Light, WakaWaka launched the product with a crowdfunding campaign. The target of $50,000 was quickly surpassed and raised over $400,000 to fund production.

The Power+ created a groundswell of support for their social enterprise business model resulting in 12,000 solar LED lights being donated to families in Haiti who were still without power, three years after the earthquake. In addition, WakaWaka set up a permanent assembly line in Haiti to provide people with much needed jobs.

WakaWaka impact map

In addition to Haiti:

  • 15,000 lights have been sent to Sierra Leone and Liberia for health workers and to be included in prevention kits for families
  • 20,000 lights were donated through its Solar for Philippines and Solar for Syria campaigns
  • 5,000 lights were delivered to earthquake victims in Nepal

Light and Power for the Developing World

WakaWaka impact measured

The third component to WakaWaka’s approach to business is the desire to empower more than a billion people in the developing world who don’t have access to electricity. In fact, their products are aimed at the needs of those earning less than $2 a day.

According to WakaWaka, those in the poorest parts of the world without power often spend up to 20% of their earnings on fuel for light. Kerosene lamps with an open flame are common, resulting in an average of 16,000 injuries per day and toxic fumes that results in 265 million tonnes of C02 emissions every year.

When a family has access to light in the evenings, the day is extended allowing for studying, additional income-earning work or simply socialising. The funds saved from fuel go back into meeting the family’s basic needs.

A WakaWaka Power+ device provides light and can power the family’s mobile phone. Twelve hours in the sun results in a full charge able to replenish a smartphone battery in about 2 hours. The Power+ can also be a source of income when used to charge other people’s devices for a small fee.

Creative Business Models

WakaWaka works with local communities to develop sustainable business models that allow people in the developing world to purchase their own WakaWaka device. The company is thinking creatively by offering subsidised pricing, lease-to-own options or micro-financing.

The company states that the demand for solar lights growing by 450% per year. With that in mind, WakaWaka opened an office in Kigali and launched the Virtual Grid in Rwanda in 2014. It is the world’s first telecom-based, pico solar pay-as-you-go power system. This innovative program works like a prepaid mobile phone account for solar power, allowing people to purchase affordable weekly top-ups.

WakaWaka are Heroes on the Ground for helping those in humanitarian crisis and in the developing world to have access to renewable energy and a source of light.

Like Next 3B, WakaWaka embraces the idea of creating sustainable business models to empower those in developing nations to improve their standard of living.

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