In “Mobile Telephony: Leveraging Strengths and Opportunities for Socio-Economic Transformation in Nigeria” (a book which I blogged about last year), Christiana Charles-Iyoha sheds some fascinating light on the barriers to mobile ownership among Nigerian market traders. Erratic power supply, and difficulty charging, came top with a staggering 87%.
Users in many African countries – and not just those in rural areas – face similar problems. In Uganda, this “charging challenge” is being met head-on by a growing band of local entrepreneurs and business people.
Rural users are able to charge their phones from a car battery (top image), charged up by a local entrepreneur when power is available, or charged in a nearby town with better supply and transported back. In urban areas, where grid power is generally more reliable, kiosks (bottom image) dotted around local markets provide charging services to passing customers.
The spread of mobile technology in developing countries has opened up income-generating opportunities on a massive scale. But what is most interesting is how local entrepreneurs have taken advantage of this growth using their own skills and ingenuity. According to the Uganda Communications Commission, the telecoms sector there provides direct employment to a little over 6,000 people. Indirect employment – which includes mobile charging entrepreneurs, airtime vendors, accessories sales-people and mobile repair shops – comes to a staggering 350,000.
Classic grassroots, bottom-up business development, and not a hand-out in sight.