Econet introduces new solar power products

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar
Econet Solar COO, Dorothy Zimuto
Econet Solar COO, Dorothy Zimuto
Econet Solar COO, Dorothy Zimuto, demoing the Power Lantern

Yesterday we attended the launch by Econet of a new solar charger/lantern/radio combo product called the Power Lantern SW015. The product is an improvement of the lantern that was on the market which, according to Econet Services CEO, Darlington Mandivenga, the company sold 400,000 of.  We actually went to the launch hoping the company was officially introducing the Home Power Station, so it was a matter of having to do with what’s there. Still, there’s much to share on the Power Lantern.

The unit was demoed by Econet Solar Chief Operating Officer, Dorothy Zimuto. The Power Lantern has two USB mobile phone charging ports; one for ordinary mobile phones and another for high capacity smartphones like the iPhone. Apparently, the solar old charger couldn’t handle iPhones. It also has a solar lantern and an FM radio. Make that 2 solar lanterns actually; the red unit on top in the picture can be detached and used separately as a flash-light and FM radio, making it quite useful for walking in unlit areas at night. The whole unit, according to Zimuto, is also water proof.

The Power Lantern is priced at $45. A no-FM radio version is being sold for $35. A separate small solar charger, pictured below, is priced at $10.

The Econet Solar products are designed and supplied to Econet Solar by a company called Solarway which is headed by Marco Signorini (Remember the Econet Solar CEO). So far it looks Econet has created a separate company that just focuses on the design and supply of these things globally, with Econet Solar Zimbabwe just one of its customers.

Econet Solar falls under Econet services, which is headed by Mandivenga. Explaining his company’s determination to make available alternative power products, Mandivenga said research had revealed that their telecoms business loses between 20% and 30% to phone calls not made due to subscribers’ mobile phones being off. “The power company [ZESA] does not have the capacity to provide enough power for our subscribers to keep the mobile phones charged. Some people in rural areas, make a single phone call and then switch off their mobile phones to save battery” he said.

Mandivenga further explained that their primary objective with Econet solar was to provide alternative power for mobile phones and in the process found themselves solving an even bigger problem of lighting. He said hospitals locally had found the lanterns quite useful for when they don’t have power form the national grid. Students are also able to study under the light of the lanterns.

Aside from the 400,000 units sold statement, Mandivenga wouldn’t say how much the solar business has contributed to Econet over the past year, citing them being in a closing period in terms of their annual financial results. He also wouldn’t say how much of the company’s base station transceivers are now powered by solar indicating irrelevance to the press briefing.  We equally couldn’t squeeze out any information on the Home Power Station for reasons along the same lines.


As part of the people attending to event, we received the Power Lantern. As usual, we’ll give it away here to a lucky reader. If you’d like to be that lucky reader all you need to do is comment below (or on our Facebook page). At the end of the day we’ll do a names-in-a-hat draw and send the unit through to the winner. We of course reserve the right to exclude those one-word-I-just-want-the-charger comments.

Dorothy Zimuto
Zimuto showing us how the Power Lantern’s flash light component works
Dorothy Zimuto
Dorothy Zimuto, showing journalists one of the products presented along with the Power Lantern

Giveaway Update : We have a winner, and his name is Tawanda Mhuriro! A big thank you to everyone that participated!


  1. macdchip

    Do you need a radio licence for the radio version or l might end up with state security agents knocking my door?

    This is a very worrying issue econet needs to address otherwise vana mbuya kumusha vangatye kushandisa those radio ones.

    1. zimictfan

      Its high time the subscriber stands up to regulation that sometimes destroys innovations. Does one pay a licence for a cellphone radio! wonder is one will pay for streaming radio from the internet! Regulators just love money hahahaha

    2. ic0n1c

      Can’t the license just be incorporated on purchase of the solar lamp?

  2. Member

    SOME GRAMMATICAL ERROR here “The Econet Solar products are designed and [BY] supplied Econet Solar by a company called Solarway which is headed by Marco Signorini (Remember the Econet Solar CEO). “. However despite the monopoly everywhere else I believe in this regard Econet is providing some reliable service. During our days kumusha we have to make do with paraffin lamps for our nightly studies and up to now our eyes akatokanganiswa and maybe reason why we have magirazi early. I envied my sisters recently while they where using these solar items for study duriing the night although right in town given the zesa load shedding. Obviously adding usb even for smart phone charging is a plus. The monopoly they might be making in this area though is uncomfortable, wonder why no other company with a distribution network of the magnitude of econet is not doing the same thing. Btw my usual style: Does my quote above then means Econet also owns Solarway yacho?

    1. L.S.M. Kabweza

      meant “supplied” or “supplied to”

  3. Member

    SOME GRAMMATICAL ERROR here “The Econet Solar products are designed and supplied
    [BY] Econet Solar by a company called Solarway which is headed
    by Marco Signorini (Remember the Econet Solar CEO). “

  4. Greg Chiponda

    is this the same solar panel from econet that works if you have airtime credits. if its the same product, then its much ado about nothing, they want to milk us dry.

    1. L.S.M. Kabweza

      Nope, not the same. The airtime unit is called the Home Power Station. I’d not write it off as a milking project yet…

    2. tinm@n

      The Home Power Station idea is “milking”. Essentially, people are being charged for free solar energy. Econet being the gatekeeper. You pay Econet to connect you to the Solar Panel they will have installed on your house, facing the FREE sun.

      I will comment with certainity after they have launched and given us prices and more information on the arrangement VS just buying your own solar panel.

      The other solar products are a life save.

      1. L.S.M. Kabweza

        and I’m sure they know the Home Power Statiopn will be competing with other pay-once-and-get-the-sun-free products. They’d be crazy to price it above those in terms of the total cost of ownership over a given reasonable period

        1. tinm@n

          Agreed. It would only work for the consumer if Econet “rents out” the system. Then the other side of the coin would be how viable that is,against whatever they will charge for usage + cost of the device

  5. Ba Rufaro

    Thanks to Econet for technology which changes life. Its trully inspired to change our lives

  6. Donavan Mandez

    dakuona kuti ko isu variku south africa who have been following on techzim tinohwina here here is my coment

  7. Sadombo

    Solar is a good alternative, here in Africa we have plenty of sunlight so why not use the free solar energy. Thumbs up Econet.

  8. muvhimi tafadzwa

    Econet continues to unveil value to customers,but given its vast business units it should start ploughing back its profits to its customers in form of affordable lower prices.

  9. Jim James Goto

    Does one need a ZBC radio licence to buy this product legally?

    1. tinm@n

      +1 Good question!

    2. L.S.M. Kabweza

      I’d imagine so. It’s a radio and you need a license to own a radio.

    3. Culprit

      I like your question as I wonder if econet has registered the solar division as a radio/television dealer with the zbc which is a requirement for anyone trading in such, and also why they are yet to offer paying of such licenses with ecocash.

    4. zimictfan

      Did you pay a licence for your cellphone radio! Will you pay for streaming from the internet! I think ZBC needs to also support the dissemination of information as a national initiative and not milk companies trying to offer services to the people where they have also failed. if there is a cost they must make it 1 dollar at least!

      1. tinm@n

        Will you pay for streaming from the internet! I think ZBC needs to also
        support the dissemination of information as a national initiative and
        not milk companies trying to offer services to the people where they
        have also failed. if there is a cost they must make it 1 dollar at

        Getting a bit ahead of yourself. No one said ZBC is charging licenses for that or not. It is a valid point to address that actually helps Econet more than it does the consumer.

        Streaming is done by agreement, by the way. Outside of that, its illegal. It takes resources to run a broadcast service(time, people, artist royalty payments…etc), and that needs to be paid for.

        It did also cross my mind how they categorise cellphone FM recievers. I assume it is somehow covered by the classification of a cellphone device

  10. Gerry

    This will be a great present for my granny during the Easter holidays kwagutu

  11. kmunyavi

    So Econet are beefing up their value chain so that revenue continues growing or they are slowing pouncing on the renewable energy untapped market opportunities. Really, a minimum viable product to start with and it’s actually targeted for the bottom of the pyramid. They say fortune for MNOs is at the bottom of the pyramid.

  12. Eng Tennyson Sigauke

    I guess I will have to add this one also to my collection of econet solar lamps at home. All my in laws now have these.

  13. KuraiMGT

    Will the police not confiscate this gadget since it has radio. I will experiment with it after the elections. LMAO

  14. keith letters

    Using alternative and clean energy is a noble idea, but I think Econet should do more in terms of the numbers of their offices, base stations that are using Solar energy. [No comment on the numbers usually means none or insignificant figures]. According to this the home power station was actually fully demoed in South Africa!

  15. Rumbi

    Thanks Econet, we were having challenges charging our smartphones with no ZESA, at least no there’s an alternative…environmentally friendly one!

  16. Chrispen Njanji Machipisa

    With the frequent power cuts even in Harare, this gadget will be handy not only for the rural folk.

  17. n. chinzou

    Econet solar light is the best lighting alternative especially in rural areas nekwedu kusati kwaita magetsi. Keep it up Econet.

  18. Mago

    It appears painfully obvious that licenses will be required for these and any other radios working in Zimbabwe, but the idea of innovation for addressing our shortfalls is highly appreciated. Who knows, soon we shall be capable of making our own commercial power generation, various software applications, implements, etc…viva research financing, viva!

  19. Sir-Tendai Tomu

    Good one !!!

  20. Juran Juran

    Illegally yes ZBC has additional source to milk from.

  21. Tawanda Mhuriro

    Great innovation from Econet. Just what Africa needs – affordable sources of energy!

    1. L.S.M. Kabweza

      Congratulations to you @google-3884112d4b5d50f74e4aed7aca9fb075:disqus, you are our lucky winner for this one. Please send in your details to and we’ll organize getting the Power Lantern to you!

      Remember to use the same email address you used when you commented.

  22. Brian Sigauke

    Great stuff Econet. It is gratifying to note that black people are also innovative.

  23. Cde_Hero

    Econet in Communication Technology

    Econet in Banking

    Econet in Insurance

    Econet in Energy generation

    Econet in Print Media

    Econet in ……

    Very soon Econet will be in Mining, Transport, Agriculture, Education etc
    Who knows and perhaps …..

  24. CB


    It has always been a a source of much amazement to me that we do not fully utilise the solar energy which we have in abundance. Whether it is because of lack of the technical prowess or the necessary will or foresight to see its many advantages. l was impressed some years back when l was travelling where the BBR railway passed and noticed all their signals and booms were solar powered and contrasted them with NRZs which no longer work.

    Why no one thought to emulate this l can only guess at. Then visiting China one time, l was amazed to see that most public lighting and traffic lights have solar power. Just think, this is the country with the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydro power station in the world and they still use solar too!

    So it makes you think why we can not focus more on solar which is cheap except maybe for the initial setup costs and very low maintenance, l guess you would need to make periodic renewals of the battery and maybe every so often the panels themeselves.

    So here’s hoping this is just the beginning of solar uptake, anyway all in all l am impressed by this development.

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