Having set itself the goal of ‘improving the lives of just over one billion people in the world’, Massachusetts-based startup Evaptainers is providing a solution to electricity shortages in Africa.

Even today, 21% of the world’s population, i.e. around 1.2 billion people, do not have access to electricity. In this age of digital products and services, it is alarming that such a huge number still lack electric power. The problem is particularly acute on the continent of Africa, where close to 80% of the rural population have electricity supply only 20% of the time. A report (in French) entitled L’Energie en Afrique à l’horizon 2050 (‘Energy in Africa in 2050’) drawn up by ADEA, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, in conjunction with Eurogroup Consulting, underlines that restricted access to electricity often translates into high prices, which have a considerable impact on household income. This imbalance is an obstacle to economic development and healthcare provision in the countries of the region.

With this observation in mind, Evaptainers has designed an electricity-free portable refrigerator which is powered using the thermodynamic technology of evaporative cooling. The principle is simple: all you have to do is pour a little water into your refrigerator and when it comes into contact with hot ambient air, it will trigger evaporation and cooling. This means that even without electricity it is quite possible to preserve fresh food, lengthening its shelf-life and making transportation easier. The Evaptainers food storage containers thus offer a solution to the issue of malnutrition due to poor refrigeration. This company is a perfect example of the social business movement, which aims to provide development aid through entrepreneurial initiatives that balance the profit motive with social action goals.

The venture has already attracted the interest of a number of local institutions in Morocco’s capital Rabat due to the proven viability and efficiency of the Evaptainer. Meanwhile the French National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) has been collaborating on R&D for the product and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also been providing support to the startup, which looks set to develop further social business products. The Evaptainer project is proof positive, if proof were needed, that entrepreneurship and social action, technological innovation and economic development can all go hand in hand, and even foster the emergence of a new community-oriented economic model.




By Théo Roux