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WakaWaka solar led lamp aims to light up Kenyan school


January 2, 2012

WakaWaka is a solar charged, portable LED lamp concept

WakaWaka is a solar charged, portable LED lamp concept

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Although we have entered 2012 approximately 1.5 billion people around the globe remain without access to a stable or safe source of light. Commonly in some of the world's poorest regions, kerosene lanterns are the standard form of night time lighting, which leads to the possibility of fires, explosions, asphyxiation and toxic fumes. Cheap, accessible solar lighting presents an obvious solution to this problem and the latest tilt at making this a reality is WakaWaka - a solar LED lamp concept that can fit snuggly onto a soda bottle.

Similar to Solar Pebble, LuminAID and Sollight, the WakaWaka lamp is a solar charged, portable LED lamp that hopes to hit the market with a low US$10 price tag, which is the equivalent of 2-3 months worth of toxic kerosene fuel. Unlike its competitors, the WakaWaka promises to provide 16 hours of light from one day of solar charge. Solar Pebble comes close with 12 hours of light but the others fall behind with only 4-6 hours of usage time.

Outside of poor rural environments the WakaWaka makes for a convenient camping torch, outdoor accessory, bedside reading light or mobile phone charger (compatible with 80% of commonly used cell phone battery brands excluding iPhone). The light-weight lamp is equipped with a replaceable battery which is said to last several years when used on a daily basis. Should it run on empty when not used for a couple of months, the user can simply charge it in the sun for a couple of hours and it's good to go.

As part of a Kickstarter initiative, the WakaWaka creators will donate three solar lamps to the students and teachers at the Mwamtsefu school in Kenya for every US$125 pledge or more. Given that the team have already raised over US$34,000 we hope that means that a lot of lamps are heading to Kenya!

WakaWaka is headed by Camille van Gestel, a founder of Off-Grid Solutions, a company that creates feasible and affordable solutions for families who do not have access to electricity. If you want to support this project, WakaWaka Kickstarter pledges start from US$1 and the campaign finishes on January 7.

Images: WakaWaka

About the Author
Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema. All articles by Bridget Borgobello

While the idea is good, the most cost effective and practical version would take existing solar pathway lights (available for as little as $4 each retail) and modifying them to meet the target users needs, ie changing the batteries for more efficient higher capacity ones.

The economies of scale are very hard to beat, so piggybacking on existing products can often save a lot of time and money.

Michael Crumpton

I have seen them progress on this project from day one and I think its great they are making to the competed and funded stage. Keep up the good work!

Ryan Brown

Actually that locking onto a soda bottle is a great idea... sidewards lighting on a desk or to read by.

But yeah the pathway lights reincarnated as night lights sounds more cost effective - toss the junk nicads, put in decent 25Kmcd LEDs, decent solar cells and higher charge density NIMH AA\'s...

And sell them for $5 each.

Except for the switch - these are more or less identical.

Mr Stiffy

Not all solar panels and LED\'s are created equal, so re-engineering lower quality parts into something that may fail the end user may not be doing the right thing by these particular users.

If you read the linked article you will see this is a world class offering, and IMO worthy of backing.

Imagine that a light could allow a student to study at night,, get a better job, support their family etc. Wow.


Those solar pathway lights retail at my local shop for $1.99 each, but I agree that the batteries are crap. I replaced the NiCd\'s with Eneloops and mine have all stayed on all night, every night, for 3 years so far.

It sounds like they\'ve chosen the el-cheapo rubbish batteries for this (\"Should it run on empty when not used for a couple of months\").

Folks shipping things to the 3rd world should take more care to send quality equipment that\'s going to last. A few cents more to produce will make for devices that last 10 times longer and are at least twice as useful in general (eg: not going \"flat\" from disuse). It means nothing to us to buy a new one when our die, but 3rd world peoples don\'t have this same opportunity, so don\'t put them in that position to start with.


I like the idea of improving health and education for the developing world. As a new range of cheap tablets and mobile phones are being introduced to those in these areas, wouldn\'t it be a good idea to include a wind-up charging handle when sunlight isn\'t available and a USB socket to make this more useful for charging things? What does Bill and Mellinda think?


$125 donation will get 3 lamps for the school in Kenya. That\'s comes to about $42 for a lamp which sells for $10. Where does the difference go? Shipping? And who owns the school? The government? The lamps are more needed by individuals who would be using them after dark at home, not at a school which is closed at night.

But no one knows the best allocation of resources better than the end user. That\'s why the market is always the best way to determine what is the most efficient usage, not a well meaning, but far removed charity worker with top down thinking. The states started out as a backward agriculture economy. They didn\'t develop with charity. Or bureaucracy. It was a lack of government which grew much slower than the expanding population that resulted in a de facto freedom from regulation and taxation. When government caught up after a century we began to lose our freedom and prosperity.


Love the idea. I have a couple of questions. Is this \'Wakawaka\' waterproof? What happens to the batteries once they are exhausted can they be recycled? We dont want to pollute another country with harmful materials. Kenya isnt the only place that needs these. There is a great need for something like this in the pacific islands as well.

Andrew Claridge

Lofty ambition, huge price, SOSO (same old same old) - I recall a water purifier straw first seen and the inventor talking of a price of $1 each - I think they ended up costing 10-20 times that.

This kind of well intentioned stuff has a limited life span and mostly ends up as waste unless it is regularly looked after (maintained, repaired and replaced) and that is not a common state in Africa. I know, I've lived there over half a century.

Getting a basic solar charger system with battery and simple lighting going on a sustainable basis is as good as I think we can get; the same goes for heating water in a simple manner. The higher tech options (see below for the exception) have a very variable life expectancy, usually tending to very short, don't kid yourself that this is not so.

I wish it were not so but who knows when or whether this will change in a hurry - the one tech revolution Africa has taken on board are mobile phones. This is a response to the abysmal telecom monopolies that still curse the continent, GSM really has had an impact at the lowest level, no matter how corrupt licences etc have proved to be at the political and business end - the "pay or transfer money by phone" solutions are excellent!

Paul Aarden
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