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KEPCO, Startup Team on Service for Non-electrified Areas in Africa

2019/08/21 18:00
Sousuke Kudou, technical writer
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A usage example of the LED lantern (source: KEPCO)
LED lanterns stored in a kiosk (source: KEPCO)

The Kansai Electric Power Co Inc (KEPCO) announced Aug 6, 2019, that it has formed a business partnership with Wassha Inc (Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo), a venture firm spun off from the University of Tokyo, which provides a power service to non-electrified areas in Africa.

Wassha develops remotely-controlled LED lanterns, smartphone applications for controlling the lanterns, etc and is currently providing a power service to non-electrified areas mainly in Tanzania by using a rental scheme.

Wassha tied up with small stores (kiosks) that sell daily necessaries in non-electrified areas and provides a service of leasing LED lanterns to users. The LED lanterns are locked so that they cannot be used when stolen. Before the lanterns are leased, they are unlocked at a store by using a smartphone application. They will be kept unlocked for a period that changes depending on the amount of money paid.

On the roof of each store, 120-150W of solar panels will be set up to charge LED lanterns (about 30 LED lanterns per store). The lantern can be used for one night (about 15 hours). Also, it is equipped with a USB port and can fully charge a mobile phone. The rental fee is about ¥25 (approx US$0.23) per night.

Tanzania has a major problem in access to electricity, and about 67.2% of its population of about 5.7 million people is living without electricity. Wassha currently has more than 120 local staff members and has established a kiosk network of more than 1,100 stores. It plans to increase the number of stores to 2,500 by December 2019.

With the latest partnership, KEPCO will procure equipment including solar panels, LED lanterns and smartphones from device manufacturers and lend them to Wassha. Wassha will use the equipment procured by KEPCO for tying up with new kiosks in and after 2020. It will increase the number of stores by 7,500 by 2023, aiming to increase the number to 10,000 including the 2,500 stores that Wassha will add by itself.