The first solar-powered laptop designed for African countries is about to be launched on the market. Might Africa soon be leading the green-tech revolution?

SOL Harnesses Solar Power to Help Grow the Internet Market in Developing Countries

With around 16% of its population online, the African continent offers considerable scope for companies specialising in telecommunications and new communication technologies. Paradoxically it is the constraints – lack of infrastructure, energy supply problems, pollution, etc – that are providing niche market opportunities. The latest example, the brainchild of Canadian IT company Wewi Telecommunications, is a laptop which can run entirely on solar power. The company thus aims to overcome the patchy access to electricity in some areas by making use of a resource which is plentiful in Africa: the sun.

Robust product, competitive price

Called Sol, the new laptop comes with a rechargeable 45-watt battery which can provide running power for about 8-10 hours.  In addition the four photovoltaic panels built into the laptop’s casing will generate sufficient electricity to recharge the battery or power the PC directly. Another attractive feature of the product is the competitive price. The standard version of the SOL with 4G LTE and Bluetooth 4.0 will carry a price-tag of between $350 and $400. David Snir, Wewi founder and CEO, claims that SOL will serve to bridge the gap between the frequent power cuts and outages in many developing countries on the one hand, and the enthusiasm of the local people for new information and communication technology on the other. “Ensuring a high degree of autonomy and using very robust materials were a central feature of the product development,” underlines Snir.

Africa, green-tech continent?

Although SOL is the first laptop to be designed specifically for developing countries, especially in Africa, it is certainly not the first-ever solar laptop: Samsung already launched a similar product back in 2011. Samsung’s NC215S laptop then enjoyed far less autonomy – running for around one hour for every two hours exposed to the sun. In parallel, the South Korean giant also set out to make mobile phones powered by solar energy. And other competitors have not been slow to enter the market; they include Shenzhen, China-based ZTE and South Korean LG. However, Africa certainly looks set to be the first continent to see solar-powered electronic devices on the market.

By Ruolin Yang