Solar Powered Street Vending With Musana Carts

Musana carts

Musana Carts aims to improve the lives of street vendors in developing  nations with solar-powered street vending carts.

Street food is an important part of many people’s diets in the developing world and the sector provides employment for millions.

In Uganda, street food vending is one of the most viable forms of self-employment as it requires little in the way of start-up capital. In the nation’s capital city of Kampala alone, it’s estimated more than 10,000 street food vendors operate.

However, the hours are long and income from street food vending is generally low. Many of these vendors also operate illegally, and food safety is a significant concern.

Musana Carts is working with Kampala’s urban street vendors to provide them with a compliant, cleaner, safer and more efficient microbusiness solution. The centerpiece is the cart itself.

Musana solar powered street vending cart

The carts feature a solar panel that is activated by the vendor when he/she makes a small payment. The solar panel powers the cart’s lights, outlets, the radio, a mobile payments system and a fan in the stove. A battery is included to store energy for use in the evening, or in overcast conditions.

The cart’s stove is a low-smoke and emissions model that is much safer and cleaner than the traditional charcoal burning stoves vendors often use. The cart also provides a lockable storage/cooling space.

An important part of the service that Musana Carts provides is assisting vendors in gaining the licensing they need to operate; through partnerships established with local city councils. This licensing process also involves the vendor passing medical tests, receiving training in food handling and passing a food safety inspection.

“Each cart empowers vendors to reduce energy costs and save time, creating additional working hours to sell more products and increase their revenues… Vendors will transition from the informal economy to become legal tax paying entrepreneurs,” says Musana.

While most vendors wouldn’t have the cash to purchase one of the carts outright, arrangements with local micro-finance institutions addresses the challenge posed by startup and cart acquisition costs.

Last year, Musana Carts launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to raise capital  to build a final version of the cart, employ locals and carry out a pilot study. The social enterprise was also one of six finalists in the prestigious 2016 Hult Prize.

Learn more about Musana Carts.

Trivia : One of Uganda’s most popular types of street food is the “Rolex”, which consists of eggs fried with tomato, onion, cabbage and green peppers rolled up in a chapati (a type of unleavened bread).

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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