A startup turns e-waste into solar lanterns to solve Nigeria’s frequent power outage problem

Each lantern weighs roughly 2.5 kg and is made up of 70% recycled electronic waste.
Baba Tamim
A Nigerian shopkeeper
A Nigerian shopkeeper using Quadloop's lantern to light up the shop.

Quadloop 

  • Frequent power cuts are a huge problem in Nigeria.
  • The African country generated worth U.S. $150 million of e-waste in 2019.
  • Qualoop’s solar lanterns turn e-waste into energy-efficient opportunities.

"I would go to my uncle's village, head straight to his room and destroy all the wooden toys, and then resemble them." 

That is what Dozie Igweilo, 35, recalls from his childhood which inspired him to manufacture solar lamps from the lumps of e-waste

Igweilo, now a successful entrepreneur in Nigeria, is passionate about consumer electronics, circular economies, renewable energy, and sustainability with an eye toward Africa. 

message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron

Growing up in the heart of Lagos in the early 2000s, he first built moving wooden toy cars for his uncle. And after a while, when mobile phones were introduced to Nigeria, he switched to repairing them. And repairing phones led him to the journey of developing Quadloop, the startup he now runs. 

However, his motivation was strengthened in 2015 when serving as a field engineer for the telecommunications firm IHS, he witnessed his people struggling with the lack of electricity.

"During one of our installations in a remote village in the Ondo state region, some villagers pleaded with us to connect them to the 6 KW solar hybrid system intended for the telecommunication site," Igweilo told Interesting Engineering (IE).

He felt powerless, "I had to break that news to them, which was very upsetting."

These situations are typical in Nigeria. And that is what compelled Igweilo to design his company's flagship product, the Idunnu portable solar wall lantern, which allows users to charge their phones and radios as well as providing clean, affordable energy. 

What began as a cheap fix for power shortages has also helped the environment. 

A startup turns e-waste into solar lanterns to solve Nigeria’s frequent power outage problem
Nigeria produced e-waste worth U.S. $150 million, in 2019.

Nigeria is ranked second in Africa, after Egypt, for the amount of electronic trash it generated in 2019, according to the WHO. E-waste production was projected to have cost the U.S. $150 million during the year. 

Lithium batteries may be a fantastic way to store energy, but their creation has a significant negative impact on the environment.

However, Quadloop's lamps increase the lifespan of currently used items and lessen the need for additional production by reusing batteries from outdated electronics.

Igewilo's target market includes local community hospitals without a stable power connection in addition to small business owners.

Idunnu, which means joy in Yoruba (the language spoken by the West African Yoruba people), is a rechargeable solar light with batteries and frames made from e-waste. Each lantern weighs roughly 2.5 kg and is made up of 70% recycled electronic waste and 30% imported parts.

A startup turns e-waste into solar lanterns to solve Nigeria’s frequent power outage problem
Quadloop’s Idunnu solar lantern.

"Well, I've been using the lamp for about two years now. It's an amazing product with really easy-to-use features," Mrs. Folasade Bamuyiwa, an Idunnu lamp user from Nigeria, told IE.

"I can confidently rely on it to provide lighting for my home at night, especially when the electricity is out."

"I was informed by Quadloop's marketing team that a more advanced version of the lamp is coming soon, and I look forward to purchasing it," she added. 

To better understand the rise of Quadloop and the Idunnu, IE called upon Dozie Igweilo for an Interview. Here are the snippets of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. 

Interesting Engineering: Could you tell us about Nigeria's electricity problem?

Dozie Igweilo: Many people in Nigeria and around Africa still rely on unclean sources to light their homes, cook their food, and power basic appliances. Poor electricity delivery has been a serious issue for decades. The majority of people still pay roughly $1 to have their mobile phones and touch lights charged, while the wealthy employ a portable 0.9kva generator to light up their residences and places of business. 

We are aware that it will be challenging to implement a consistent energy distribution process given the political shortcomings and failings of the government and the expanding population of over 200 million people.

IE: How will this startup help you and your people?

In recent years, substantial health dangers have been associated with electronic trash. The massive numbers of used and discarded electronics have an effect on people, animals, and the environment. In Nigeria, 80% of youths have access to a laptop and a power bank, which adds up to the amount of garbage produced over time due to our country's aging young population.

Building tangible items and gadgets has always been a goal of mine. I initially looked at creating toys for kids, which is a fantastic idea but doesn't address a real need, which is why I switched to solar energy products. In addition to promoting electronics made in Nigeria, this idea will help reduce the electronic generation of waste and create jobs.

IE: What material do you use in the making of these solar lamps?

We harness e-waste materials such as laptop lithium battery packs, flat-screen TV wiring, diffusers, screws, and PLA plastics. We make the polymers into flakes and then send them to businesses that make plastic so they may be remolded. Since batteries are the most expensive component, they serve as our primary raw material.

Since June 2022, we have produced exactly 200 improved units of Idunnu. We make at least 15 lanterns every day, and each one requires 2.5kg of e-waste.

IE: How has the response been?

The government has been quite helpful in terms of granting user access to training and exhibitions in Nigeria and Dubai. We had just concluded the GITEX tech expo held in Dubai sponsored by Eko Innovation Center (EIC), which is an arm of the Lagos State government.

A startup turns e-waste into solar lanterns to solve Nigeria’s frequent power outage problem
Quadloop team at GITEX tech expo Dubai.

Our future plan is to replicate our model across 10 African countries with abundant e-waste and similar electricity problems by designing products that would suit the African market at large.

IE: Are there any issues with the products that you would like to fix?

Yes, one of the most common complaints we hear from clients is that they would rather pay $20 to $25 than $35 for the same products. Another issue is the quick charging function; we want to improve our circuit so that users can have fully charged devices in just 6 hours of sunlight. We are aiming to reduce production costs and other expenses so that we can offer better, more inexpensive sales prices.