Street Use

Phone Charging Booths in Uganda

The ever-amazing vagabond researcher Jan Chipcase has a wonderful report on the phone charging booths in Uganda. Jan says:

Uganda is a country coping with a severe energy crisis resulting in frequent power cuts. In addition, access to mains electricity in rural locations is limited. Given that mobile phones require power, and access to power can be unpredictable – how do people keep their mobile phones and other electrical devices charged? Last July a Nokia research team travelled to Uganda and explored this issue as part of a more in-depth study into shared phone use.

Power Up Streetcharging

There are two forms of mobile phone battery charging services in Kampala – either offered as an additional service by phone kiosk operators or as a stand alone service. It costs 500 Ugandan Shillings (0.2 Euro) to have a battery recharged similar to the price of 2 or 3 phone calls. Whist both services appear to thrive there are a number of barriers to use: customers cannot use their phone whilst the battery is being charged; the customer risks, or perceives the risk that their battery being swapped for an inferior one; a perceived risk of phone theft – signs that suggest service providers are not responsible for loss or theft are evident.


For many Ugandan rural communities with no access to mains power car batteries are the primary means of providing electricity to the home. Businesses such as bars also run off car batteries but they are more likely to have their own power generator. A used car battery costs 30 to 40 dollars and can keep a household powered for a month, though in a bar the same battery might last a week. The homes we visited ran electrical items included radios, CD players, television and domestic lighting.

Posted on January 12, 2007 at 5:58 pm | comments

  • gorckat

    I wonder if any of the vendors will start stocking commonly seen batteries to swap for a customer’s so the customer can pay and run while the vendor charges up the one left behind for a future customer?

    Although the fear of getting a crappy battery in place of a good one would still remain…

  • Jacknut

    I’ve seen similar things in India. Shopkeepers don’t stock batteries because they are easy to steal and dispose of.

    One thing I love in Indian airports are sponsored charging kiosks with multiple chargers for different phones. As you’re waiting in line to board, you can put your phone to charge. As soon as you get to the door, you can pick it up.

  • Too bad that after awhile a cell battery begins to lose it’s charge holding ability, over time

    You cannot see two full batteries as equal.
    One may hold a charge for days, while the other will run out within an hour or two.

    What a bummer!

  • I propose a solar charger for cell phones as well as standard size batteries at

    Motorola is introducing a cell phone charging bike

  • Steve Merkel

    How about selling solar-powered chargers — in a country where sunshine is abundant — to the subscribers? That would eliminate all of the problems associated with the kiosks.

  • that’s why Motorola released a pedal-powered mobile charger

  • emil

    Looks like they use UK-style electrical sockets.


  • RMWB

    Somebody needs to start marketing this wind-up alternative in Uganda: