Hult Students Engineer Solar Carts for Ugandan Street Vendors
Tom Spendlove posted on May 05, 2016 |

Nataliey Bitature, Keisuke Kubota, and Manon Lavaud met studying social entrepreneurship at the Hult International Business School in San Francisco.  Their goal for the Crowded Urban Spaces Challenge was to improve the living conditions of street vendors in Kampala, Uganda. Kampala vendors often operated illegally, inhaling fumes from a coal burning stove and with little or no access to energy. The team’s solution was Musana carts, a solar powered cart that acts as a workstation and energy source while allowing vendors to operate legally on the streets of Kampala. Musana is currently running a funding campaign on Indiegogo to refine and launch their product.

The main innovation from the cart is solar panels. Adding a solar eco stove to a vendor’s street cart eliminates the need for fuel, reducing expenses. Solar energy also reduces the emissions the vendor would normally breathe in during the day and eliminates the possibility of fuel-related fires. The energy can also be used to power refrigerators, warmers, and power charging stations.

A modular design helps the team to meet the needs of several different vendors. Storage, workspace and power considerations can be built into the cart to create the perfect workspace for each user. The team partners with micro-finance institutions to let the vendors rent the carts without having to pay the full cost of the system up front. The partnership with the Kampala Capital City Authority also gives the street vendors a legal way to sell their wares and make their living.

Musana carts are an awesome project that show the possibilities that arise when engineers link up with social entrepreneurs. The modular design of the carts along with the elimination of charcoal fuel are great innovations that serve to make the world a better place. The Indiegogo campaign ends on May 25, 2016. The project is also one of six finalists for the $1,000,000 prize that will be awarded in September at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting.

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