Week #2 of Unreasonable Propositions: Shining a Light on Rwanda

I’m going through withdrawal…thinking that this is my last post about the deeply inspiring Unreasonable people . These 42 folks (ten of whom I’m sponsoring) are the finalists in the Unreasonable Institute Marketplace of high-impact social entrepreneurs with big ideas about how to make the world a better place. So it’s fitting that I’m ending with Sameer Hajee who founded NURU Rwanda http://nurulight.com a company that’s bringing affordable, healthy, safe, rechargeable lighting to one of the poorest countries in the world.

Rwanda is a country of 10 million people, 95% of whom have no access to electricity. The average person in Rwanda earns 50 cents/day but spends 15 cents of that on kerosene for lighting. Kerosense isn’t just expensive — it’s dangerous, noxious, and delivers poor light. NURU (“Light” in Swahili) won its seed funding from the World Bank 2008 Lighting Africa competition, and in 14 months, developed an LED light that is 95% more affordable than kerosene, unbreakable, rechargeable, protects the environment, eliminates indoor air pollution, and brightens up the lives of Rwandan children, women and men who can now work, read, and study in the night.

But NURU’s light spreads far beyond the sphere of its immediate incandescence. NURU screens and selects entrepreneurs from local communities to operate franchises that are located in customers’ communities, sell lights (sometimes on microcredit), and charge customers a small fee to recharge the lights —  by operating the world’s first pedal generator that charges 5 lights in 20 minutes of pedaling… and the charge lasts 35 hours!

Goudance, NURU entrepreneur, w/PowerCycle charger

These Rwandan entrepreneurs, like the delightful Goudance Muryonbere of Tetero, can earn up to $13.50 a day by selling and recharging NURU lights, either by PowerCycle, PowerGrid or PowerSolar. That means NURU franchise operators may earn 400% more than the national average – while they save customers 95% on their lighting.

Linda reads her homework for the first time at night.

Sameer Hajee, the CEO of NURU, is about the most Unreasonable person you can imagine. A Canadian national, he has roots in Kenya, went to school at INSEAD Paris and Wharton, worked in businesses in Silicon Valley, Afghanistan, Kenya and Rwanda – and is basically an environmental, social, entrepreneurial, microfinancing, pro-poor/pro-profit, citizen of the planet.  My $100 today goes to NURU and all the superstars of Unreasonable Institute Finalist Marketplace who are out to light up the world. Godspeed!

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