BBOXX is an innovative UK company that designs, manufactures and distributes plug and play solar systems that provide off-the-grid electricity in remote rural areas across Africa and the developing world.

Since 2010, more than 50,000 BBOXX products have been sold in over 35 countries, improving the lives of over 250,000 people with clean and renewable solar energy.

Already, the BBOXX has created almost 50,000 hours for working and studying, has saved a million dollars in energy-related expenses, and has offset almost 20 tons of carbon dioxide.  By 2020, BBOXX hopes to have provided more than 20 million people with electricity.

The amount of cell phones in Africa is staggering. To put it in perspective, there are 327 million cell phones in the US and there are 167 million in Nigeria—much more than in countries like Japan, German, Mexico, France and the UK.  Kenya has 52 million people and 28 million phones, which means that 70% of the population has a phone. Most of the phones in use in remote areas are primitive by western standards—90s-style technology flip phones. As there are no electrical sources in these far off places, people travel long distances—even days—to charge their batteries. Also, the people who live in these remote places must spend a sizeable percentage of their income on batteries, kerosene, candles, and other items no longer needed when they have access to a BBOXX unit.

Ann Gloag found out about BBOXX through the Scottish Malawi Foundation (SMF), a government agency that was sponsoring a program in the south of Malawi that made charging kiosks from some of BBOXX’s larger products. The FFFF decided to use the basic model for its patients and the SMF shared costs on the first batch. Armed with these devices, the women return to their villages where they earn money for charging phones (up to five at a time), and use BBOXX units for lighting their home at night, as well as things like playing a radio or running a fan. While the women make very little from this each day, approximately 250 MK (50 cents in US dollars), the understanding is that they will eventually pay back half the cost of their BBOXX device in time.  Freedom From Fistula Foundation has just received its second set of BBOXX units, once again sharing the costs with the SMF.

The BBOXX system is an important part of Freedom From Fistula Foundation’s larger initiative to empower women economically through classes in literacy, arithmetic, and arts and crafts. If they choose to, the patients also have the opportunity to study micro-finance and receive small loans from Malawi’s Opportunity Bank.

The three co-founders of BBOXX met as Electrical and Electronics Engineering students at Imperial College in London.  They travelled widely and recognized the challenges posed to community and business development by unreliable electrical supply. In response they formed the student charity, e.quinox to expose the potential for off–the-grid solutions in the developing world.  BBOXX is the resulting for-profit venture. The company now manufactures, distributes, finances, and services the devices. They also remotely manage them though a cloud-based system using data that is sent from each one through the mobile phone networks in each country. They then use data analysis to configure and adapt each system to extend the use of the battery, track problems before they occur, and get geographical coordinates to allow customers to be serviced more effectively.

BBOXX makes a range of different products, from the 15 watt model the obstetric fistula patients receive—light enough to hand carry and designed to run 2-4 lights, a radio and phone charging—to the largest (1500 watts of solar panels), enough to power a typical African suburban home, including a refrigerator, computers, TVs and many lights. BBOXX has electrified approximately 500 homes and businesses using this model.

More information can be found on the BBOXX website.