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REPURPOSING LAPTOP BATTERIES IN TANZANIA

A REPORT ON REPURPOSING LAPTOP BATTERIES TO PRODUCE LITHIUM-ION BATTERY PACKS IN TANZANIA

By Gibson Kawago, First Published in the Medium on January 27

Introduction

Access to electricity is a major challenge for many rural communities in Tanzania. According to the World Bank, only about 27% of the rural population in Tanzania has access to electricity, and many of these communities are not connected to the national grid. This lack of access to electricity has a significant impact on the quality of life for people living in these areas, limiting their ability to improve their livelihoods and participate fully in the economy. In addition, many rural households in Tanzania rely on kerosene lamps as their primary source of lighting, which not only exposes them to health hazards but also increases their costs for energy, and negatively impacts the environment. To address this problem, WAGA was founded as a socially responsible company that aims to provide clean and affordable energy to low-income rural communities in Tanzania. Through recycling laptop batteries and creating jobs for local women and youth, WAGA is working to improve the living standards of people in these communities and promote sustainable development.

Trashed batteries Batteries
Fig 1: Laptop batteries trashed in a dump

Our Journey

After WAGA became part of the Open Skies fellows program, we received significant support in the form of funding and mentorship. The funds and guidance provided by the program allowed us to take our recycling and repurposing efforts to the next level.

We started by going to Kariakoo, a large market in Tanzania where many laptop repair centers are located, to collect used and non-functional laptop batteries. Our team of battery collectors, who were mostly local women and youth, were trained to properly handle and transport the batteries to ensure safety during the collection process.

sorting laptop batteries from plastic housings credits paul stremple.
Photo: Sorting laptop batteries from plastic housings, Credits Paul Stremple.

Once the batteries were collected, they were transported to our workshop where they were broken down into their individual components. The batteries were then sorted and tested to determine which cells were still functional and could be used in our products. The non-functional cells were collected together ready for recycling in China, while the plastic housings were sent to our recycling partners.

With the functional cells, we began the process of assembling them into battery packs. Our team of technicians and assembly line workers were trained to properly handle and assemble the cells into various types of battery packs, including 12V, 24V, and 48V packs. These packs were then used in our products such as electric bikes, power banks, solar lights, street lights and battery packs for lighting in villages and power backups in towns.

gibson at the workshop working on the power packs credits paul stremple.
Photo: Gibson At the workshop working on the power packs, Credits Paul Stremple.

The support from Open Skies fellows program helped us to scale up our operations and increase our production capabilities. We were able to purchase new equipment and hire more employees, which in turn helped us to create more jobs and support the local community. We are grateful for the support and guidance we received from the program and look forward to continuing our efforts to provide clean and sustainable energy solutions to rural communities in Tanzania.

Outreach

n addition to our operations, we also used the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience with others. As part of the Open Skies Fellows program, I conducted an outreach event at the Dar es Salaam International Academy on November 17th 2022. During this event, I helped primary school students understand the importance of clean and affordable energy. We also did a hands-on experiment on a topic the students had studied in class related to clean energy.

This outreach event was an exciting opportunity for me to share my knowledge and experience with the next generation. It was also a great way to raise awareness about the importance of clean and affordable energy and the role that recycling can play in achieving this goal. Overall, the support we received as part of the Open Skies Fellows program has been invaluable in helping us to achieve our goals and make a positive impact in the communities we serve.

outreach at dar es salaam international academy on november 17th credits fatema zehrav.
Photo: Outreach at Dar es Salaam International Academy on November 17th, Credits Fatema Zehrav.

We also had an outreach event at Muhimbili University with the YUNA club members. During this event, we shared our journey and experience as a socially responsible company working to provide clean and affordable energy to rural communities in Tanzania. We discussed the challenges we faced and the solutions we came up with, including recycling laptop batteries to produce portable power packs. We also shared our commitment to creating jobs and promoting sustainable development. The members of the YUNA club were excited to hear about our work and were eager to learn about the opportunities available for them to make a positive impact in their communities. We encouraged them to unleash their potentials and to explore ways in which they can use their skills and expertise to create opportunities and self-employment, by looking at how WAGA has been working. The event was a great success and we received positive feedback from the members, who were inspired to take action and make a difference in their communities.

outreach at muhimbil university
Photo: Outreach  at Muhimbili University
meeting with yuna leaders at muhimbil university
Photo: Meeting with YUNA leaders at Muhimbili University

The Team

The WAGA team, are proud to have made this project a success. Our team, consisting of Gibson Kawago, Francis Mtalemwa, Simon Mtambo, Geofrey Karogo, Tony Mushi, Devis Lossy, Edgar Edmund, and Emanuel Lameck, worked tirelessly to collect, sort, and repurpose laptop batteries in Tanzania. Through our efforts, we were able to produce reliable, affordable, and efficient electric bikes, power banks, solar lights, street lights and battery packs for lighting in villages and power backups in towns. We are grateful for the support we received from Open Skies Fellows, which provided us with funds and mentors to help us achieve our goal. Together, we are making a positive impact on the environment and the communities we serve.

WAGA team members Paul Stremple.
Photo: Some WAGA team members (From Left) Geofrey Karogo, Gibson Kawago, Simon Mtambo and Francis Mtalemwa at the garage, Credits Paul Stremple.

Technical Specifications

The power pack we developed has a capacity of 480 watt-hours and a voltage of 12 volts. It is housed in an Alkabond casing and has both output and input terminals for charging and powering devices. The pack can be recharged through a solar panel or via electricity from the grid. Additionally, it has a bar display that indicates the remaining capacity of the pack. This power pack is designed to provide reliable and efficient power for a wide range of applications, from powering lights and mobile devices to running small appliances and equipment.

a power pack made from repurposed laptop batteries.
Photo: A power pack made from repurposed laptop batteries.
gibson handling a power pack with the solar panel for recharging Credits Paul Stremple.
Photo: Gibson handling a power pack with the solar panel for recharging, Credits Paul Stremple.

Testing Our Power Pack

1. Powering A Local Fruit Shop

We were excited to put our battery packs to the test in a real-world setting and were thrilled when we were able to power an entire local fruits market in Mbezi Makonde, near Mbezi Garden, using just 6 lamps. The shop owners were impressed with the effectiveness and reliability of our battery packs and it was a great validation of all the hard work that our team had put into the project. It was a proud moment for all of us at WAGA and solidified our belief in the potential of repurposing laptop batteries to provide clean and affordable energy to rural communities.

power pack powering local fruits shop at Mbezi Makonde Dar Es Salaam Credits Paul Stremple
Photo: WAGA Power pack powering local fruits shop at
Mbezi Makonde Dar Es Salaam, Credits Paul Stremple

2. Powering a Local Mobile Money Shop

We were also able to successfully provide a local agent for mobile money at Mbezi Juu, known as “WAKALA,” with a power pack that enabled them to power their shop during times of power cuts. This provided a reliable source of energy for their business operations and improved their overall productivity and customer service.

Gibson speaking to a local mobile money agent oin the importance of the power pack. Credits Paul Stremple
Photo: Gibson speaking to a local mobile money agent
on the importance of the power pack., Credits Paul Stremple

3. Lighting for Students Doing Homeworks at Night

We also tested our power pack by using it to power lamps that helped students do their STEM activities and homework after school, and it worked well. The students were able to complete their assignments and projects without interruption, even during power outages. The power pack’s ability to provide reliable, stable power was a major factor in its success in this application. This was a great example of how our technology can be used to improve access to education and support the learning and development of young people in rural areas.

student doing STEM activities in time of power cut using WAGA power pack Elon Mushi Credits Paul Stremple.
Photo: A student  doing STEM activities in time of power-cut using
WAGA power pack (Elon Mushi), Credits Paul Stremple.

4. A Power Bank

We also made a power bank with a capacity of 16000mAh that can charge an iPhone 11 up to four times from 0 to full charge. This power bank is perfect for people who are always on-the-go and need to keep their devices charged. It is lightweight and portable, making it easy to carry around and use whenever needed. The power bank also has multiple output ports which allows for charging multiple devices at the same time. The high capacity and fast charging capabilities make it a reliable and convenient solution for keeping your devices charged throughout the day.

16000mAh power bank design
Photo: A 16000mAh power bank design.
16000mAh power bank made from repurposed laptop batteries charging a mobile phone.
Photo: A 16000mAh power bank made from repurposed laptop batteries charging a mobile phone.

Conclusion

In conclusion, WAGA’s project to recycle and repurpose laptop batteries in Tanzania has been a success. Our efforts have not only helped to reduce the negative environmental and health impacts of improperly disposed of laptop batteries, but we also provided sustainable and reliable energy solutions for various communities in Tanzania. The support from Open Skies fellows helped us to achieve our goals, and we were able to create jobs for women and youths as battery collectors, battery crushers, and technicians in assembly lines.

We also had outreach programs at Dar es Salaam International Academy and Muhimbili University to educate students on clean and affordable energy, and helped them understand the opportunities available in this field.

We are proud of the contributions we made to the sustainable development goals of Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 13: Climate Action, Goal 5: Gender Equality, and Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.

The WAGA team, Gibson Kawago, Francis Mtalemwa, Simon Mtambo, Geofrey Karogo, Tony Mushi, Devis Lossy, Edgar Edmund and Emanuel Lameck, worked tirelessly to make this project a success. We are excited about the future as we plan to expand our operations and start producing electric bicycles and vehicles by 2025.

We are grateful to the following individuals who contributed to the sucess of our project. Their hard work, contribution, and dedication were instrumental in making our vision of recycling and repurposing laptop batteries in Tanzania a reality.

  1. Fredy Mbuya (Mentor on Lithium-Ion Batteries)
  2. Digna Mushi
  3. Joan Meddy
  4. Dominic Ngondo
  5. Iddy Chazua
  6. Eng. Walter Minja
  7. Simon Sweke
  8. Aisha Mustapher
  9. Ester Materu
  10. Yoakina Lutego
  11. Dominicus Kawago
  12. Shaukat Ali
  13. William Perry
  14. Victor Mhapa
  15. Dr. Lwidiko Edward Mhamilawa
  16. Princely Glorious
  17. Kaizah Mwokolo
  18. Thadei Mkanzabi
  19. Elisia Teri
  20. Editha Mwanyika
  21. Hawa Adinani
  22. Wilfred Chomba
  23. Sandra Somi
  24. Christopher Otieno
  25. Raymond Dickson

Learn More :

A. ABOUT GIBSON KAWGO

HiA Network: https://www.hostedinafrica.com/network-members/gibsonkawago/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gibsonkawago/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gibsonkawago/

Twitter : https://twitter.com/gibsonkawago

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gibson.kawago

B. ABOUT WAGA

Website: https://wagatanzania.com

HiA Network: https://www.hostedinafrica.com/hia-network-communities/waga/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wagatanzania

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/waga

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/wagatanzania

Facebook https://web.facebook.com/wagatanzania

C. OTHER LINKS

“Waga Tanzania” (https://www.wagatanzania.com/)

“Gibson Kawago: Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 2023 Cohort” (https://africaprize.raeng.org.uk/2023-cohort/gibson-kawago)

“Gibson Kawago: United Nations Youth Envoy” (https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/gibson-kawago/)

“Tanzania Young Innovator Harnesses the Sun to Help Community” (https://www.africanleadershipmagazine.co.uk/tanzania-young-innovator-harnesses-the-sun-to-help-community/)

“UN recognition for Tanzanian youthful climate entrepreneur” (https://www.thecitizen.co.tz/tanzania/news/national/-un-recognition-for-tanzanian-youthful-climate-entrepreneur-3961902)

“Tanzania: Waga Tanzania Wins Global Cleantech Business Idea Competition” (https://allafrica.com/stories/202211250015.html)

“ClimateLaunchpad finalists: Waga” (https://climatelaunchpad.org/finalists/waga/)

“Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 2023 Shortlist Pitching Session” (https://www.cisl.cam.ac.uk/news/africa-prize-engineering-innovation-2023-shortlist-pitching-session)

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Environment, HiA-Media, Next Gen, Science & Technology

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