The Grand Signal

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A digital magazine covering the intersection of technology, human rights and social change.

Karibu – A modular solar lamp aimed for the poor

November 18, 2013 | Written by The Grand Signal
Photo courtesy of USFWS Mountain-Prairie on Flickr |

Half a billion people in Africa don’t have access to light and energy. Alternatives such as kerosene lamps pose a huge threat to women and children because of toxic fumes and the risk of fires. Kerosene lamps are also harmful to the environment, emitting black carbon which contributes to climate change.

Social company Karibu (which means hello in Swahili) is trying to improve energy access through the use of a modular solar lamp coupled with a unique business model that allows those at the bottom of the pyramid to afford their solar technology. Their business model works by breaking the solar lamp into 3 components – the solar panel, rechargeable battery, and light source. A consumer, typically unable to afford the entire lamp, can purchase both the rechargeable battery and light source from the shop owner. The consumer is then able to exchange their drained battery for a new one with the shop for a small fee. After 30 days, the consumer is given the solar panel and becomes the owner of the solar lamp.

The video below gives an overview of their product and business model:

For more information about Karibu, visit

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