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SHIRIKI HUB business in a box Solution to bring last mile connectivity Solutions.

ARED developed a business in a box solar kiosk to empower vulnerable people using a micro franchise business model.

Photo of henri Nyakarundi

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Explain your project idea in two sentences.

ARED has developed a turnkey green business in a box solution to empower vulnerable people using a micro franchisee business platform to fight poverty at the base of the pyramid.

What is your organization name? Explain your organization in one sentence.

African renewable energy distributor. We are a business in a box solution for people at the BOP.

Is this project idea new for you or your organization? If no, how much have you already executed on?

ARED is not a new organization, we have been on the ground now for 4 years. We have already created 30 micro entrepreneurs on the ground in Rwanda and we have pivoted our business three times already to improve on our hardware but also business model.

What is the problem you aim to solve with this idea? How would you define this problem as urgent and a priority in your target community?

The main problem we want to fix is the unemployment challenge that exist in Africa especially among the youth & women at the base of the pyramid. Unemployment among the youth is the number cause of social unrest and even crime that exist on the continent of Africa.

What is the timeline for your project idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

We have almost finished developing the next generation solar kiosk & we are improving on our software platform that will allow us to offer more services using a mobile application that will increase the micro franchisees/micro entrepreneurs’ revenue and make our solution even more sustainable. We plan to add in the next 3 years 500 solar kiosks in Rwanda and 1000 in Uganda which will create 1500 micro entrepreneurs in those 2 countries while we franchising our model in other countries.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of responsibility).

Erick Yong, Business strategy expert of our expansion plan. Thomas Festerling is CFO Jonas Tubemaso, Technical Maintenance Nasser Kanesa Chief Marketing and Business Development Manager in Rwanda Henri Nyakarundi, CEO Oliver Klein, CTO Jeremiah Lwebuga business development for Uganda

What do you need the most support with in this project idea?

  • Business Development/Partnerships

What is your primary goal over the next 6 weeks of Refinement?

  • Better understand my user or community

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) results for this project?

We measure on how many micro entrepreneurs we create, we also measure the amount of income they generate and compare it to the country income per capita, we also measure the number of customers our micro entrepreneurs serve on a daily basis. Finally, we measure the impact our kiosk has on the end users from the services we offer, the usage of the wifi digital access and what type of digital content people consume.

How has your project proposal changed due to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase?

it did not change since we already tested and improve on our model for the last 4 years and we still improving our platform and business model. We already build a feedback platform on an mobile application that our micro entrepreneur uses on a daily basis to resell electronic vouchers to the end users.

(Optional) What are some of your still unanswered questions or concerns about this idea?

Some of the ideas we need to test is the viability of bringing affordable access to internet and localize digital content to people in rural and semi urban areas and what type of content would users want to have and consume finally, what type of engagement tool we need to build to improve the engagement of the users on our WIFI network.

An interview we did with Cnn explaining our impact of our technology and business model. 


Explain your idea

ARED is a hard-tech as a service company (HAAS). We developed a business in a box solar kiosk, app and software platform that can empower mostly women and people with disability using a micro franchise business model. We offer key services on the kiosk such as internet WIFI, intranet solution for offline users and charging phone and with our app we offer additional services such as airtime, mobile money, prepaid electricity, tax payment to create a one stop shop center for the end user. We sale a business in a box solar kiosk combine with our apps to fight the unemployment issue in Africa using a micro franchise business model. Our business in a box is low cost, the individual pay on average a one time fee 30$ to buy the micro franchise business and we lease the kiosk for free. We offer a 3 day training program for the micro franchisee to maximize income on the kiosk. Our micro franchisee earn a commission on all the sales, and keep 100% of the revenue collected from charging phone. One of the biggest challenge in Africa that does cause social unrest is the unemployment among the youth which is around 30% in East Africa. One of the challenges of having a micro business in rural or semi urban areas is the lack support, knowledge and access to energy, unfortunately the grid is not accessible everywhere on the continent but we answer to all those issues. I believe solar technology is the best approach to bring green business solutions to the poor/unemployed and give them an opportunity of generating an income to combat extreme poverty. In 2015, we had the opportunity to be partnered with the Red Cross International to implement solar kiosks in one of the refugee camps in Rwanda. Since then, we have taken the direct initiative to have kiosks in all the camps and hire refugees to run and operate them and thus generating income for themselves from the business. We learned a lot through this initiative, and the need for that solution in those camps. We believe that our new model will have even a better impact. Also, one of the chronic challenges in those camps is finding sustainable income generating solutions for refugees. We have seen that most NGOs develop immediate aid solutions but no longer term solutions. Our goal is to bring a long-term alternative to the 60 Million refugees that are spread worldwide. Environmental impact: Our technology uses solar energy and we have developed a recycling program to dispose of each kiosk after its life cycle. Social impact: We provide business and technological training to ensure the success of our franchisees. Technological impact: We have also develop an intranet platform within the kiosk that will allow anyone to access digital contents at no cost to the user. Economic impact: Our franchisees average between $100 to $150 net revenue per month, which is twice the per capita income in Rwanda. The micro-franchisees benefit from having minimal overhead since the kiosks are 100% powered by solar.

Who Benefits?

Our micro franchise program is design to benefit unemployed people, vulnerable groups such as women and people with disabilities. Entrepreneurship has become one of the best solution to fight poverty and unemployment that exist on the continent of Africa. The challenge with entrepreneurship, is the process and most people fail in entrepreneurship because they take on this process alone. ARED turnkey green business solution come full ready to be operational from day one. The micro franchisee pays a minimal fee of 30$ that include training, transport of the kiosk to the location, maintenance of the kiosk, technical training and financial support. ARED provide the solar kiosk, uniform so customer can easily identify the micro franchisees, easy access to credit to purchase the services needed to distribute on the kiosk. The job of the micro franchisee is to serve his or her customers, and all of them start making money from day one. ARED handles everything else.

How is your idea unique?

We have develop a real inclusive business at the base of the pyramid that allow anyone to plug in to our program, get a training and enjoy a strong revenue stream from the different services we offer at a extremely low franchisee fee that vary between 10 to 50$ per micro franchisees. any person with disability pays $10, women pay 20$ and the rest pay the equivalent of 50$. We are the only platform that offer all the services from this hub, which brings efficiency to the end users. Now they can purchase all their services without having to go long distance. Our franchisees average between $100 to $150 net revenue per month, which is twice the per capita income in Rwanda. The micro-franchisees benefit from having minimal overhead since the kiosks are 100% powered by solar panels and their mobility minimizes any need for infrastructure to be built. We have implemented so far 30 solar kiosk across Rwanda which translate to 30 micro entrepreneurs and we served around 40000 customers.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Piloting: I have started to implement my solution as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about you

We are a for profit social impact based in Rwanda with branches in Uganda. We started this journey in 2013. My Name is Henri Nyakarundi, I was born as a Rwandan refugee in Kenya and spent most of my youth in Burundi. In 1996 after several wars devastated the East African region, my sister and I had the opportunity to go to the USA to pursue our education. I graduated from computer science in 2003, and I was looking for a project to do back home to prepare my return. It all started in 2009 from a trip I took to Burundi, I was noticing amazing changes: People all over the place were carrying cell phones and smart phones but access to reliable power was a big issue. So, I came up with the concept of a solar kiosk to bring easy access for charging to the people. The first prototype was built in 2013, and we launched our first kiosk in march 2013 at Nyabugogo market place located in Kigali to test the model. and we spent years developing the right business model, testing the solution, developing the technology. Our inclusive business model require a very dynamic ecosystem to be put in place such as partnership with telecom companies, NGO that focus on fighting poverty, government and more. We have so far partner with MTN Rwanda, airtel Rwanda, Microsoft affordable access, village capital, SNV Rwanda and more. It took two-and-a-half years and a lot of support from different organizations such as Catapult Design, SEIF foundation, Microsoft, Autodesk Foundation, Village Capital, GreenTec Capital, ASME and Siemens Foundation to develop the next generation of kiosk and software that was going to allow us to bring digital content and services to the masses and any virtual top-up services from our app. Now we are about 80% done and we cannot wait to grow our social impact even further.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

21 comments

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Photo of Davis Carlos
Team

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Photo of Davis Carlos
Team

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Photo of Wesley Vasquez
Team

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Photo of Anne Evans
Team

You mention, "we need to test is the viability of bringing affordable access to internet and localize digital content to people in rural and semi urban areas and what type of content would users want to have and consume finally, what type of engagement tool we need to build to improve the engagement of the users on our WIFI network."
How would your approach change if you could have affordable broadband access for your beneficiaries? Our approach can work anywhere in the world. Please check out our submission: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/bridgebuilder/improve/appalachia-empowerment-collaborative

Photo of henri Nyakarundi
Team

Wireless access via satellite system is a very interesting approach, I know of another company in Senegal that is also using that approach. Our technology uses a content distribution network that is build in the router. Basically we have a hard drive on the router system that allow us to store content and distribute it without users having internet on their phones. Of course it is limited to specific content. The hardware for satellite connectivity would be too big for our kiosk and would not be able to be powered by our solar panel that I know of but the education content aspect is very interesting and could be integrated easily. I would love to talk about that. thanks

Photo of Anne Evans
Team

Henri,
If you are focusing on certain geographic areas our approach might make sense. Our unit includes a server and is solar powered and provides WIFI within approx 10 Km radius. (take a look at the photo of it on our page.) Possibly also provides mobile service if needed in the area through a roaming agreement with a provider. We include a server to enable downloads to be done at non -peak times and it can be accessed free by anyone in the radius who is a registered user.

Photo of henri Nyakarundi
Team

I just saw the photo, In very remote areas that would work indeed, roaming agreement with a provider would even be best so we can have access on our kiosk. Our kiosk provide micro businesses for people they make money on the kiosk charging phones, selling of prepaid services like airtime, etc.... Our solution is not just about connectivity but our agent generate revenue from offering connectivity in their communities using our solar kiosk that is why we have it on a kiosk structure to create income generating revenue for people that have no other opportunities.

Photo of Anne Evans
Team

Henri,
We are also using the approach of putting frequently accessed content on a local cache server. The whole point is to enable people to make a living but we think they might have more options if not just operating on roaming but with broadband. Thoughts on that? We'll let you know if it looks like we might be working in Rwanda. Feel free to reach out to me - aevans@ashoka.org

Photo of henri Nyakarundi
Team

thanks for the great feedback. to respond on the changes of our model. The key for us to make the business sustainable, is to make offer as many services as we can So we went from just offering charging services to now offering airtime, government services, wifi internet and intranet, soon insurance payment to really facilitate customers and providing a one stop shop access for customers to acquire any services they need.
For our micro franchisees also we providing now business credit to facilitate the purchase and selling of the services they are providing to the customers. In the past our micro franchisee had to prepaid for the services at the discounted price, and provide it to customer but because a lot of them do not have access to fund at all time we integrated a credit system on our mobile app that instantly give them a small credit and they have 24h to repay.
The fact that the micro franchisee and ARED generate revenue on the sale of the services ensure sustainability, and we engage people from their communities to operate the kiosk. Please view a short DW story they did last month https://youtu.be/gQjgf1FtbPg.
The mobile app is fully operational since march, we did a short video about it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TOU92rJ1v8
We did address the risk that is why we have incorporated multiple revenue stream to minimise risk, We also planning to add iot sensors on the kiosk to better monitor and evaluate our micro franchisees to address the risk of potential kiosk abandonment or thieves, more data on number of phone charges etc...
For Uganda we have adopted a small iteration on our model, we will be including area developer that will be in charge of the recruitment, monitoring of the micro franchisee so we can focus on the other aspect of business such as digital content, finding advertisers, etc... 
Policy and government challenges vary from country to country but it is especially around wifi intranet and digital services, where the data stored what information is collected but all those challenges are common and require licensing. The fact that we have a social impact approach helps a lot so far.

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Henri,

Great to see your response and to find out how your business model has considered a whole host of different scenarios.

Do you have any feedback from the solar kiosk entrepreneurs that you could share with us?

As the challenge is on the final stretch, are there any organisations operating in specific geographies or sectors that you are keen to connect to?

Photo of henri Nyakarundi
Team

We posted some video of interviews of some of our micro franchisees please visit http://www.dw.com/en/mobile-power-to-bring-rwandas-remote-regions-into-the-future/a-39041739
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=br2OualDob8
or our testimonial on our website http://www.a-r-e-d.com/#testimonial
We are looking to partners Pnud, unicef, we are looking for organization that are in the business of economic empowerment so we can speed our impact.
I hope that answer your questions.

Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

Hi Henri and Team! We’re excited to share with you feedback and questions from our expert reviewers. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

Based on expert career, previous work and field experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the challenge question:
• Addressing unemployment of under resourced populations is not new, but doing so with an environmental twist definitely is. Additionally, piloting in this geography appear bold (high risk, high potential for social complications) from the business model perspective.
• Would love to learn what ARED has done to iterate on and make their model more bold (“we have pivoted our business three times already to improve on our hardware but also business model.”). Information here regarding the product journey would add to our confidence in the “new approach”.

Desirability and Viability of proposal:
• I see this as desirable, definitely. Im curious about how co-created the product is with the community? Seems like they’ve done a lot of user research, but illustrating which aspects of the work are community driven or community led would strengthen. The prototypes and success seen to date help with confidence here.
• Would love to see more context around the end users and what they see as an ideal solution, as well as how included/discluded they feel from a community, given the mobile aspect of this solution. Is there some aspect of co-creation that might strengthen this work and ensure local/community sustainability for the women? How can empowerment continue on past initial engagement with the product/service?
• “Mobile application that will increase the micro franchisees/micro entrepreneurs’ revenue and make our solution even more sustainable.” …would love to learn more about this piece (how is the mobile app used, at what stage of development?), and ensure ARED has considered the risks of “technological leapfrogging” within their community of need. Given their body of work so far, feel confident they have bolstered this part of their product with user research and findings.

Feasibility of proposal (is this an idea that could be brought to life?):
• Certainly seems feasible. They’ve done a great job of capturing learning/impact to date, though more granular information on what it took to reach the current level of impact would strengthen proposal. Would also help to ground evaluators in an understanding of “where ARED has been and what they’ve done”, before moving into feasibility of scaling further.
• We love that they have illustrated a willingness to grow/evolve eventually with user needs – was impressed by their identification of what has changed due to beneficiary feedback and quick integration.
• Would be interested to learn more about the comparison of feasibility between Rwandan and Uganda implementation. What the key characteristics that influence feasibility across geographies? How can an understanding of these support and sustain future expansion in the region?

Other questions or suggestions our experts felt would support the assessment or success of your idea:
• Great proposal. Has thought been put behind what is a Plan B, should partnerships, local adoption, etc become insecure? Would be helpful to see more of an address of risks/potential challenges. A critical may strengthen.
• I’d like to learn more about if/how the organization is considering challenges from the policy or government perspective -- (are there additional strategic partnerships in this light that may, at some point in the roadmap, need to be put into place?)

In case you missed it, check out this Storytelling Toolkit for inspiration for crafting strong and compelling stories: http://ideo.to/DXld5g Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - June 16 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your idea on the OpenIDEO platform.
 
Have questions? Email us at bridgebuilder@ideo.com.
 
Looking forward to reading more!

Photo of eldy wullur
Team

We have the same problem, the number of unskilled unemployed.
Your solution seems to be held in Indonesia.
Is your product ready for market to Indonesia?

Photo of henri Nyakarundi
Team

Hi, we only develop the business model for the African market, to maximize success of the model, we need partnership with 3g or 4g telecom providers, understand customer need. Micro entrepreneurship is very current in Africa , they call it street vendors, but I do not know the Asian market and the law for street vending and the law to distribute digital content. If you email me on henri@a-r-e-d.com I can send you some detail info on the technology, business model, market research needed. We have a franchising model, so that also will have to be adapted.
thanks

Photo of eldy wullur
Team

In Indonesia we have more than 5 telecom providers and everything is 4G. Okay I will contact your email. Thank you for your willingness.

Photo of henri Nyakarundi
Team

we attached our map activity but I'm not sure we added on the right place since guideline ask to be loaded at the top of the page did I do it right?

Photo of rubie
Team

Hi Henri!

Interesting project! I find it especially interesting how you combine job creation with access to renewable energy. However, I was wondering who your competitors are, and compared to them what your added value is? can you apply the kiosks to different uses?
Thanks!

Photo of henri Nyakarundi
Team

rubie Our goal is to disrupt the micro entrepreneurship sector by offering to them a much better solution that can help them generate more money than the traditional micro business. On our kiosk, we charge phones, we sale prepaid electronic services and we provide wifi internet and intranet services and our micro entrepreneurs make money on all those services. There is micro entrepreneurs that offer phone charging services using either car batteries, regular electricity if they have access to it or they buy a home solar system kit, there is micro entrepreneur that offer prepaid services and there is brck that offer free internet. However, no one does it all in one system and our system is solar powered and easy to be implemented.
2. We micro franchise program require minimum investment between 10 to 50$ one time fee, depending on gender and other factors. The fee include training, support, free maintenance we do not sell the kiosk we keep ownership of the kiosk, and transport of the kiosk to the location where they will be working from. If someone had to do the same business on their own, they would have to spend minimum $3000. ARED has facilitate the access to micro business for people at the base of the pyramid, since the biggest challenge for anyone at the BOP was lack of access to capital.
Finally, we develop a credit system that allow the micro franchisee to buy the prepaid services on credit so they can continue running their business uninterrupted. I hope that answer the question

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Henri,

Thank you for sharing the great work you are doing.

What is the plan for the growth of your business over the next 1,3 and 5 years in terms of the number of entrepreneurs and revenue?

How are you reaching out to women and disabled people for the kiosks?

Why did you decide to focus on charging cell phones over battery swapping?

How long does it take to charge the cell phones?

Is this your website - http://www.a-r-e-d.com/ - founded in January 2013?

Photo of henri Nyakarundi
Team

Our goal is 20 countries in the next 10 years we already in Rwanda and Uganda so two countries a year. We have developed a franchising business to expand faster where will be licensing the technology and business model for a revenue sharing structure. We generated around $100 per month from the different services we offer on the kiosk and our internet and intranet platform will allow us to monetize it even more since we offer local digital content distribution from our kiosk.
We reach to women and disabled people from working with cooperatives and word of mouth and some NGO's.
We are not in the product business but service business. Charging is just one of the service we offer but we offer prepaid airtime, people can pay there taxes on our kiosk they can access wifi internet and on all those services the kiosk operator gets a commission. Battery swap business require product inventory bigger facility. If you see our kiosk it is mobile compact easy to implement. Providing services is much easier to scale than product distribution. The time to charge a phone vary on the phone there is not set time for all phones. We are using USB technology so feature phones charge faster than smart phone but there is no time limit for charge since it s solar powered.
Yes our website is a-r-e-d.com
I hope I answered the question but if I did not don't hesitate to ask some more

Photo of henri Nyakarundi
Team

I forgot to add we estimated we can have between 50000 to 100000 micro entrepreneurs minimum in the next 10 to 15 years that will serve between 1M to 2M customers on a daily basis.