Charging hubs are established in rural locations where there is a need for off‑grid renewable energy. In consultation with the community, Mobile Power’s team installs solar panels on a central building in the village. Alternatively, the hubs are connected to existing solar power systems in schools, clinics or water purification plants where they help to fund the maintenance of these systems.
‘Mobile Power helps to maintain the solar panels on the school… It also makes the school’s electricity available to poorer people in the community.’ (Rev Kumah - School founder)
The hubs are managed by teams of local men and women who receive training in the technical and financial aspects of the programme, as well as customer service and support.
The MOPO batteries are charged at the hubs, ready for rental.
After taking advice from community leaders, local distribution agents are recruited and trained. The agents deliver the battery-packs and are paid in cash by the customers (homes and businesses).
Once payment is received, the agents activate the MOPO batteries using a mobile phone application and credits they have previously bought using Mobile Money. Agents are paid a commission on the rental and return of battery-packs, encouraging them to circulate as many as possible.
‘I used to travel two hours each way to charge my phone. I only did it once a week. Now I can get a MOPO battery with no waiting time. I have saved a huge amount of time and money.’ (Musa Musari – Miner)
Each battery-pack has enough stored energy to meet basic household lighting and charging needs for 24 hours.
‘The best thing about MOPO batteries is that I can charge my phone wherever I am without having to go to the telecentre. Now I can keep in touch with my family, and my grandchildren use the light to study.’ (Fanta Kabba – Farmer)
After 24 hours the battery-pack automatically locks and the agent collects it and returns it to the hub for charging. The customer can hire multiple battery-packs each week, or just one if they prefer.
‘My family rents one pack and we share the light for study between me and the younger children. Before MOPO batteries we could not study at night. I also use the light for safety, especially when going to the toilet at night.’ (Roseline Kamara – Student)
Rural households in Sierra Leone often spend up to 20 per cent of their income on phone charging and the purchase of disposable batteries. The use of MOPO batteries can help customers save up to 75 per cent of these costs.
When asked what they are using these savings for, customers said they are buying more or better food, investing in businesses, paying school fees and using the money for leisure activities.
Case study: Empowering women
One of Mobile Power’s goals is to provide business opportunities for both women and men, but the local teams were struggling to recruit and retain female agents.
Discrimination and concerns about safety meant that community leaders almost always recommended men rather than women for the role, despite a high level of unemployment among women. One community chief stated that ‘women are not serious’, implying that they would not be able to make a success of the business.
To try to find a solution, in partnership with World Hope International, Mobile Power engaged the services of a Gender Equality Field Officer, Bintu Kanneh. Bintu encourages community leaders to promote the recruitment of female agents and helps to provide training in the technical aspects of the role, as well as safety and business skills.
Bintu coaches the women, pointing out their strengths and also areas for improvement. She believes in them and wants to see them succeed. She encourages the women to work as a team and to support each other. She does this through regular phone calls, visits to their different communities and WhatsApp communications.
Hawa, a young woman of 22, is determined to make a success of her business so she can pay for her school exams. She will then be able to go to college. Hawa has 75 MOPO batteries that she can rent out daily. If all are rented out, she makes a daily profit of 75,000 Leones (7.5 USD).
Hawa is regularly meeting her targets and Bintu is very impressed by Hawa’s abilities and determination. She says, ‘As women, we should help and push each other. The chief rejected Hawa because he said she is “not serious”. Now she is one of my best agents!’
World Hope International works to alleviate poverty by providing opportunity, dignity and hope.