Off-grid solar company Pawame has been selected as a semi-finalist for the Innovate for Refugees Competition organized by the MIT Enterprise Forum – Pan-Arab Region. Its work in generating affordable, clean and safe energy to the residents of Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya in particular has been widely lauded, with the company seeking to raise $250,000, create 50 jobs and better the lives of over 5000 people by the end of 2018.
The MIT-sponsored competition is an initiative that attracts the best tech-driven solutions addressing the refugee crisis and rewards innovative concepts from across the globe that alleviate life-threatening challenges faced by displaced millions.
This news is especially significant as the company is currently in the process of moving its global headquarters from Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi, underscoring the important role of the region in addressing refugee issues given its funding capabilities and its proximity to many refugee hotspots both African and Middle East.
The company is working in partnership with REFUNITE, a global non-profit organisation that focuses on reuniting family members separated in conflict situations, to enable a Bluetooth enabled mesh communication network, which allows free of charge, offline communication and distribution of information throughout the refugee camp. Pawame will drive electrification and connectivity in the camp through the distribution of its solar home system on an 18 month pay-as-you-go/rent-to-own model with affordable daily payments of $0.50. In addition to being a charging solution that supports the use of smartphones, the solar home systems will also provide the conventional benefits of nighttime lighting (up to four lights), as well as appliances such as radio and TV.
“We are proud to be leading this effort to provide mobile penetration and clean and affordable energy to such underserved markets,” said Pawame CEO Maurice Parets adding that this model of decentralized energy and communication can be easily replicated in refugee camps the world over.
Majd Chaaya, Pawame’s Chief Technology Officer will highlight these benefits when he travels to Amman at the end of January for the next round of competition. Originally Lebanese, born in the UAE and raised in Saudi Arabia, his regional and technical knowledge and global experience should reflect well on Pawame, according to Parets.
“The plight of refugees is one of the world’s most urgent humanitarian challenges, particularly in the Middle East and Africa,” he said, “It’s important that the region continue to exert strong leadership on this issue, led by talented Arab innovators like Majd. With his leadership and the backing of our many Gulf investors we are deploying technology that meaningfully improves and even transforms life for refugees in Kakuma.”
The company has also been invited to participate at the GSMA Mobile World Congress as it showcases innovation across business models for connecting refugees, humanitarian cash transfers and the potential for mobile-enabled utility solutions to expand into disaster-affected areas. The GSMA is the largest annual exhibition and conference dedicated to the mobile industry that will be held in Barcelona in March this year.