Posts written by juabar

Experiential Learning and Design process with Delft Student team, Drop Creatives

As a part of our dedication to community based design and experiential learning we were joined this last summer, fall and winter by a talented team of students from Delft University in the Netherlands. We have been exploring possibilities to provide additional electricity and connectivity services to the communities we work with in Tanzania and this was a good opportunity for a joint design and design research challenge for the Juabar team and the Delft student team, Drop Creatives.


We explored opportunities to serve additional urban and periurban communities in addition to the rural communities we already focus on. We also looked at additional services that can be incorporated in order to better meet community needs as well as increase revenues for both Juabar as well as our network of entrepreneurs. We are now testing some of these opportunities and look forward to sharing new designs and service offerings in the months to come.


Thank you to the Drop Creatives team for your great work!

Highlights from the Juabar Team

Godfrey Mallya, far right trains Mr. Hatibu and his family to operate their Juabar kiosk.

Godfrey Mallya, far right trains Mr. Hatibu and his family to operate their Juabar kiosk.


I started working with Juabar as the Operations Coordinator in September 2012 when it was first introduced in Tanzania. It was a new idea to me and very exciting to every employee in ARTI Energy Ltd, one of Juabar’s partners and the other company I work for. We had two Juabar units in the field for a pilot studies for three months in Bagamoyo at Pwani region and the other at Mbweni Mpiji nearby Dar es Salaam City. Both units performed well in technical side and in business perspective. Still the units are operating in the same areas as the operators decided to buy them. This year we participated in Saba Saba International trade fair in Dar es salaam in partnership with ARTI Energy Ltd. We got a chance to show people the Juabar kiosk and how it works. Everyone was very interested in the idea.

On the 17th of August, 2013 my friend John Jackson and I decided to take two of them for business at Morogoro Bus stand. Inside the bus stand there is no power at all so passengers need to charge their phones before and after their safari (journey). The units can charge your phone, radio, laptop, torch, phone batteries, etc by solar. Now time has come that you can get the moving solar power from a JUABAR Kiosk.

-Godfrey Mallya, Juabar Operations Coordinator

Community energy services, an opportunity for farmers

Farmers of Sauti Ya Wakulima prepare to operate their new charging kiosk.

Farmers of Sauti Ya Wakulima prepare to operate their new charging kiosk.

In the fall of 2012 we had the opportunity to connect with Eugenio Tisselli, the creator of OjoVoz,, a mobile app and website designed to enable farmers to collect photographic records and audio recordings of their agricultural practices. From documenting disease outbreaks to recording the most valuable characteristics of locally developed cassava varieties, the platform lets farmers collect and share valuable information with each other, other farmers and local, national and international researchers and institutions.

Juabar is working with the farmers to provide them with electricity access to keep the phones that they use for research charged and ready when needed. The Juabar charging kiosk not only provides valuable energy services, but it is also a business opportunity for the farmers. The kiosk is on long term lease to the group for a minimal monthly fee and the additional money that they earn from offering mobile charging services to their community will be directed back toward cooperative research and farming needs for the group. This is just the beginning of what we look forward to becoming an exciting opportunity for farmers groups across Tanzania and the communities in which they live who lack access to basic electricity services.

When connectivity fights corruption

Today we were back at KINU, a fledgling ICT hub in Dar es Salaam and fast becoming our favorite hangout. Yesterday and today we attended the Tanzanian edition of the 5th Annual South African Innovation Summit, a conference talking about design, business and the role of ICT and systems thinking innovation. The topics covered were not necessarily new, but the African context was enlightening for us. Today especially validated our need to optimize solar energy for creating new pathways for consistent connectivity.

Our workshop team after a rapid prototyping exercise. “Superfoot – your secret mobility weapon” or an enhanced artificial leg.

As is common for live streamed events, the connection turned spotty mid-morning and we switched  to a more “workshop” format earlier than scheduled. I preferred the workshops because it allowed us to take the themes from the streamed South African plenary talks and discuss them for Tanzania: a much different technological, infrastructural and financial national landscape.

The workshop facilitator asked “what defines Tanzania?”
People … Weather … Lack of Technology … National Parks … Lack of Infrastructure … Youth … Corruption, etc.

“What defines Tanzania?”

We then separated the answers as “positives” and “negatives” and were asked to focus on the negatives and figure out how technology could play a role in creating solutions to overcome these negatives.

My group focused on corruption and we came up with a solution that focused on exposing public departments or companies who have employees that request bribes. Using a crowd sourced web site the content would be aggregated and made available to the public. Public shunning is taken very seriously. There were plenty more details discussed within our group and with the larger group that led to a rich and lively conversation, but too many to list for now.

Our brainstorm visualization on how ICT can help curb corruption in Tanzania

What was most relevant to me was how mobile phones fit into all these solutions when considering how a solution could be made easily accessible for a broad spectrum of people in Tanzania. A corruption web site is only good for the limited number who have access to the internet, others would need to use SMS to contribute and participate. Our takeaway is that the mobile phone is more and more becoming a tool to facilitate new solutions to old systemic problems. Based on the conversation we had today with Tanzanian ICT developers, they are well aware that mobile comes first in developing new solutions to serve the needs of the local environment.

At juabar, we think access to connectivity is only going to get that much more pertinent as these types of solutions are built. We’ll help to keep the renewable power on to allow for greater participation. Over and out from the 5th Annual South African #InnovationSummit.

A little resourcefulness

Yesterday was a big day for juabar. Juabar1 is piloting with one of ARTI’s long-standing collaborators, named Mikila, who lives in an off-grid area not far from Dar.

We first visited Mikila last week to introduce juabar, gauge his interest in operating a phone charging micro-business and explain the data-collecting and co-creating implements as a pilot “jua-preneur.” This meeting was positive, he asked good questions, such as “can I pull juabar from a motorcycle” and, “what language will the marketing flyers be written in?” Also encouraging was his excitement at this opportunity and the manner in which he was already riffing on its possibilities. Our ARTI colleagues who helped translate relayed to us that they could sense his excitement. He informed us that his oldest of four children, all daughters, was beginning her studies to become an electrician. As a family business, adding juabar will create a direct experience with solar that Mikila’s daughter can add to her professional credentials. After all of our juabar business dealings were done, Mikila went to his garden and offered us cassava. Bounty of the land!

Godfrey and Ronnie peel cassava for the ride home, a gift from juabar’s new family in Chambisi

The exact date that juabar would be dropped off at it’s pilot location has been a moving target for weeks. Two days ago we were informed that the next afternoon would be the day for the drop off. That was yesterday, a Sunday. All of a sudden a flurry of activity was happening at juabar HQ. The day was coming when juabar1 would go off into the world on its own. There was still marketing materials to print, training manuals to complete and data tracking devices to put into place, not to mention translation. All the little loose ends that don’t seem like much until the deadline is suddenly the following day.

On the day of the drop off, we couldn’t find a printing service operating on Sunday, the ARTI van sprung a major radiator leak on our way out of town and our translator was off for the weekend. These missteps didn’t slow down Team JUABAR. We found a printer at a high-end hotel business center, relied on a good friend in the States to translate documents in the middle of the night, added color accents to our B&W flyers on the drive to Mikila’s, and on the side of the road north of Dar our overheating van received treatment on a holey pipe using a $1 rubber strip and a ton of Tanzanian ingenuity.

juabar makes it happen! flyers: designed, printed, cut and delivered at a moments notice, even on Sunday 🙂

All was ready as needed when we arrived at Mikila’s house yesterday afternoon.

We conducted a quick technical and micro-business training, explained our data tracking needs and juabar1 found its home as a family business in Chambisi.

juabar 101, everyone’s paying attention as the 1st juabar solar training takes place.

It was a proud moment to be driving away, leaving juabar1 behind with its new crew.

the lovely young ladies of juabar’s new family!

First visit to KINU – the ICT “Hub” of Dar

Tuesday evening antics.

Up to it again, ideating at an urban innovation co-creation space in Dar es Salaam, Tz. Pondering how best to use ICT for climate change info sharing and awareness in East Africa.

Wishing for one extra week

Enlightenment found at our favorite local hardware store in Mbezi Beach, Dar es Salaam.

Now that we know … where to find the good electrical supplies … that most of our hardware needs are solved by our favorite little hardware store around the corner … that we should always take a Swahili-speaking fabricator with us, we are beginning to gain real momentum. Not speaking Swahili sucks even though we get along fine with our multilingual colleagues and the patience of many Tanzanians. To our credit, our Swahili gets us on AND off the local “daladala” buses, lunch service from the spot across from work and the ability to buy from and bargain with anyone. Money talks, know your numbers first.

“Charge your phone with solar, here!”

Having a prototype also helps with momentum. Now that Jua1 is functionally complete, our vision is better communicated. People can see with their own eyes what it is and what it does. It fills us with joy to see the employees of ARTI take customers around to our workspace at the back of the office and tell them about juabar. And, it’s not for our benefit. They explain and converse in Swahili and then walk away. We have to explicitly follow up to ask what the person said and thought of the concept. It’s something that people immediately understand as a solution for off-grid communities.

Kenedy breaking it down on the juabar v.2 design

Our team at ARTI feels hopeful about juabar. We would love to get a version out to a far off rural area where people pay 2 to 3 times what people pay in the city to charge their phone, but we will market test nearer to Dar es Salaam first. Although ARTI is willing to test juabar for us, we really want to see these prototypes through some rounds of user feedback. And with less than 5 days until we have to leave, and a mountain of stress to complete Jua2 in time before leaving, we have decided to bite the bullet and extend our stay.

Colors of the Trade

There is still much to learn and test from Jua1 and Jua2. To be honest, we want to be leading this process and we can’t let the prototypes go on without us just yet. Sometimes, when the power is back on, the water is flowing from the taps and the wifi internet works again, you realize how much can be done when everything clicks. This ride is far from over, this segment just needs to be longer, three weeks longer to be exact.

Tools of the Trade

Day at the Ofisi (Office)

We have been blessed at ARTI to have two business-minded guys available to muse with us on business strategy for juabar. Yesterday, the technicians were offsite and we had some miscommunications on when they’d be back to go over the juabar designs. Instead we switched gears to better understanding the mobile phone charging market and unexpectedly had an extremely fun day of it.

Pin adapter commonly used to charge phone batteries, found at a grid-tied mobile charging stations in Bunju.

We took a bijaj taxi (see pic below) to the outskirts of Dar to a town called Bunju. There we noticed four grid-tied charging stations within an area of less than 100 meters, stiff competition at the edge of the grid. We interviewed these shop owners and learned that many folks from the interior communities travel or send their phones (sometimes just their batteries) to these mobile phone shops, which makes for why each had consistent numbers of daily customers.

Our bijaj getting loaded with square piping.

Godfrey, who is our Tanzanian colleague and fellow rabble-rouser on the business side, is awesome! He’s soft-spoken, calm and neatly dressed, and he delivered a happy surprise when he put us on motorcycles to visit a solar charging business in a very rural area outside of Bunju, called Kinondo. I forgot that renting motorcycle taxi drivers is normal here, and it’s the easiest way to access more distant areas with rougher roads. It’s outside the American mental model to trust a stranger enough to saddle up behind them on their ride, but when in Tanzania … we do as it is done! It was a great day at work on the back of a motorcycle and riding through a beautiful stretch of dirt road on a gorgeous sunny day.

Ride to find the SOLAR mobile phone charging station in rural Kidondo.

We learned from the rural solar charging station owner that hers was a new business that her family recently started, only one month old. The added value of solar in their home is watching TV and having lights, the business brings in steady additional income.

Today, we are having additional miscommunication on where is our builder. We miss Godfrey on his day off as we cannot just go off and buy our build of materials. Well, we could but everyone at the office is telling us to wait for James, our fabricator/builder, to get back and confirm the design with him first.

Juabar prototype birthday looking to be delayed until tomorrow ….

Co-Designing juabar: Day 1


Today marked the first design session with our partners at Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI). A day that started with a bit of anxiety on our part about leading a design process for a team that didn’t speak the same language or operate within our creative freedom felt a little unnerving.

Sachi, Godfrey and John check out juabar components at the ARTI offices.

Would they think we were nuts? Confusing? Could we bring our design chops to the Swahili table?

Last night we planned for today’s outcomes and nailed down how best to talk through our design principles and co-designing methods. We spent yesterday evening illustrating our concept and drawing out the community ecosystem where juabar would be introduced. Then we pinpointed what considerations we should detail based on our research: security, weight, durability, charge capacity, and mobility.

Unleashing our juabar components upon ARTI was like Christmas for the solar technicians. Unpackaging the Solar Nexus (the brain of juabar) and charge controllers fed the curiosity of these guys who work with electrical systems daily. The sales and admin staff were also getting in on the excitement and contributing to the process in their own ways.

The technicians of ARTI ideate on juabar concept! Excitement was felt by all!

The day was spectacular! At first it was a little slow going as we had to make sure our business partner, Godfrey, understood the juabar concept well enough to translate to the others. We unfurled markers, paper, drawings, tape and an openness to their input within the context of this project. While slow at first, once they fully understood the design concept for juabar, they were off and running, designing juabars, sailing forward with new ideas and considerations. At one point one of the business development guys wanted to talk about challenges for the entrepreneurs who would be running these juabars and off he went to create an initial SWOT analysis for us. Needless to say, the folks at ARTI are excited for the possibilities of juabar. We’re excited to share more as we enter Day 3 on the ground.

juabar co-design wall at ARTI!