Approximately 1.6 billion people in the world live without electricity. A lack of reliable light access limits the productivity of nearly a quarter of the world's population. Africa accounts for a major share of the un-electricified, some 580 million people, more than half employ kerosene lamps as their primary light source. Kerosene lamps are expensive to run, dangerous to use and environmentally harmful.
The Mwezi light, a solar lamp with a difference - made in Africa for Africa. Mwezi is a problem solving product that will have a life enhancing impact on the poor and vulnerable, designed in the UK ,and then in the future assembled in Africa to create jobs and save lives by replacing kerosene lamps. A unique approach - a great product that solves a problem and will create jobs in Africa at the same time with a scalable and sustainable solution.
We have created a working prototype and now want to raise enough money to produce the final injection mouldings and complete the first full production run for our Kickstarter supporters. In the future we will start assembling the lights in Kenya.
The Mwezi light has been designed so that it can be easily assembled locally. We will start with a product that is modular and so can be assembled without any previous experience –anyone should be able to do it. This approach has two important benefits, firstly we will create jobs and start to build skills where they are most needed, secondly we will be able to provide after-sales support – so if someone breaks their light it can be easily repaired locally at a low cost.This will give our customers confidence in the product.
The early and late bird Mwezi lights will have orange plastic clamshells - the same as we will produce for Kenya.
The limited edition Mwezi light will have a charcoal plastic clamshell - these will only be available for Kickstarter supporters.
Don't forget we will ship a complete light kit so that you can have fun assembling the light. Plus all our backers will have a name check on our website 'hall of fame' when the project is complete.
When the user presses the power button the light cycles through increasing intensities of light output finally switching off.
2 x Cree XLamp XP-C LEDs
Maximum drive current: up to 500mA
Wide viewing angle:115 degrees
1.2W mono epoxy solar panel
Dimension 110 x 90 x 2.6 mm
NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) 1600mA rechargeable batteries
3 x AA batteries
Up to 1,000 recharge cycles
NiMH batteries are more environmentally sound than NiCd and do not have a charge memory, so they can be recharged at any point, there is no need for a complete discharge before charging.
Based on a new fully charged battery:
At 100% brightness the life span would be approximately 9 hours of use.
Using the nightlight the life span would be approximately 80 hours of use.
Based on testing in the UK sun for 4 hours (on a relatively clear day with intermittent cloud the prototype produced 5 hours of light at 100% output.
Mike Sherry, the creator of the Mwezi light and founder of Mwezi has been involved in the creation, sale and distribution of energy efficient products and service for the last 6 years. Mike has also completed a number of environmental projects in Kenya supplying improved cookstoves and solar solutions to villages in the Rift Valley and in the Coast province.
Mike did a lot of research into the solar products that are currently available in both the UK and Africa. The idea emerged that a solar light could be designed that replaced kerosene lamps and created jobs - this became the Mwezi light.
Mike has been collaborating and leading the development of the Mwezi light design with Centreline Design Limited, a UK based design consultancy. Centreline are a product design consultancy with over 30 years experience. Their original grounding as injection mould tool designers before progressing into product design gives them an in depth knowledge of the process and means that the Mwezi light was designed for ease of manufacture from the very beginning. Sourcing parts from China their in-house electronics engineer was able to optimise the performance of both solar panel and the battery pack to give the fastest possible charge time, while keeping production costs low. Centreline were also able to source the manufacture using their longstanding contacts in China, taking the product from conception to completion.
The collaboration between Mike Sherry and Centreline Design should ensure, with our combined experience, we produce and deliver a great product.
All design work has now been completed - both product and technical specifications and we now have a working prototype. The components have been costed and manufacturers selected. The next stage and longest duration will be to start production of the injection mouldings. The timelines for producing the Mwezi light are:
concluding the Kickstarter project (mid-May).
the injection mouldings are anticipated to be 8-12 weeks (End July)
first run clamp shell production completed 2 weeks (Mid August)
Solar cell & printed circuit board production concurrent with mouldings
Packaging and consolidation 2 weeks (End August)
Shipping to UK 4 weeks (Early October)
Dispatch 2 weeks (End October)
Risks and challenges
Sourcing and manufacturing products in China can be challenging. We have nearly a decade of experience in doing business in China - from fast moving goods to energy efficient products - not all of our experience was good but we learnt what not to do and what works best. We have already employed a firm in the UK to provide a complete design to delivery service. They have some 40 years of experience in their field and have a great client portfolio.
Doing business in Africa is complex and difficult. We will need to provide a significant amount of product education to our customers so our customers understand the benefits that the light has over kerosene lights. We recognise that we will be employing unskilled workers who may initially need quite a bit of support to reach their full potential. We are partnering with an organisation that has worked in East Africa for the last 6 years and some 60 field staff on the ground. They will assist us in the establishment of the assembly and sales network to ensure that the model becomes sustainable and scalable.