Uganda student uses off-grid lighting for phone charging business, boasting earnings and higher marks in school

Story adapted with the permission of Barefoot Power

Bakole Joel reading for his future © Barefoot Power

      “There is now reason to pass my exams.” Bakole

Bakole is a Primary seven pupil at the Ojuku Primary school, in the Maracha-terego District of Aii-Vuu Sub-County, Uganda.  With the help of his Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA), Bakole was able to purchase a Barefoot Power Firefly Mobile lamp. He uses the lamp to run a business charging mobile phones and to study at night, both of which have dramatically changed his life for the better.

In the past, Bakole’s only source of income was to sell tobacco that he grew.  Tobacco is the main cash crop in the area and, while Bakole recognized it was not an ecologically sustainable business, it was his only option for generating cash. Still, this business was not enough for him to earn enough savings for his family.  He had dreamed of being able to help take the burden off his elderly father, MuzeeErina Albino, from having to pay for his educational materials – books, pens, uniforms, etc.

Then he had a brilliant idea. There was only one location for phone charging in his village – a video hall that had a generator and offered charging services, but only operated at night, making it difficult for people to get to the charging center.  If he could borrow 25,000 Ugandan Shillings (UGX) (~US $12.50) from the Village Savings and Loan Association and save up enough from his tobacco sales to match that amount, he could purchase a Barefoot Power Firefly Mobile lamp.  Then, he could both use it for personal use, to study at night, and as a means to make money from offering phone charging services at times that are more convenient for the community.

His idea worked.  Bakole’s name became associated with a successful commercial phone charging point in the village andpeople prefer his place to the generator at the video hall because it is more convenient. Today Bakole boasts earnings of about 2,500 shillings ($1.25) daily from his phone charging business alone, and is seeing increasing demand, with many people asking for bigger systems that can charge multiple phones simultaneously. He believes his savings will only continue to increase from here.

“I had bought this system for my personal use given that waiting at night for charging was very disturbing for me.” Bakole

“My system has been more convenient for the community and I have attracted more customers.” Bakole

Bakole confirms the benefit of reaching out to his community’s VSLA and his excitement over his Firefly12 Mobile. Because of his lamp, his hope of helping his father by contributing to his school materials is becoming a reality.  Furthermore, with a stable source of light for reading at night, Bakole believes that his academic performance is improving. Being able to acquire a consistent source of income from his Firefly 12Mobile phone charging business has proved to be able to both increase his sav-ings capacity and help him meet his scholastic needs.

Barefoot Power is an Associate of Lighting Africa.