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Kenyans get solar-powered cell phone

Aug 21, 2009 - UPI

A solar phone that recharges even on cloudy days is expected to be a hit in Kenya, where electricity is scarce, Safaricom officials said.

Safaricom, Kenya's largest mobile phone company, this month began selling a $35 handset that comes with a regular plug-in electrical charger and a solar panel that charges with natural light, company CEO Michael Joseph said.

Just 1.3 million of Kenya's 37 million people are connected to the national power grid, so many of the estimated 17 million Kenyans who use mobile phones pay businesses to charge their phones, sometimes waiting a full day to get the phone back, CNN reported Friday.

About 100,000 of the new phones, made by Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp., are being made available in Kenya now, Joseph said.

"There's an enormous need for a device like this," Joseph told CNN. He said his company expects to run out of initial 100,000 phones within a week.