Impact Engine – Part 4

John Jonelis

Impact EngineVerbatim from a special correspondent:

Ever hear o’ light poverty? Yeah, it’s a real thing ‘n’ it causes real poverty. But now somebody’s got a clever way t’ fix the problem. Lemme tell you about it.

This’s Loop Lonagan reporting. I’m here speakin’ to you again from Impact Engine Investor Day where a buncha new companies is makin’ their pitch fer growth capital.


This place is fulla us Impact Investors—them’s the only people invited here. And this crowd’s a whole lot more energized than other events. Way more lively.

Here’s what makes it so exciting: The best way to solve a social problem is to find a way t’ make money while yer fixin’ it. That way the solution becomes whacha call self-sustaining. They call it social entrepreneurship. I like da sound o’ that phrase.

Now let’s sit back and listen to one o’ these new ideas:

Note to Editor—I see you ain’t been fixin’ up my copy so the hell with it. I’m gonna let ‘er rip.

Note to Loop—Go for it. Keep it clean.


Da Problem

Hey—we ain’t got no light poverty here at the Chase Auditorium. They even got a special guy assigned to control the banks o’ stage lights with a fancy computer just fer him. And it’s daylight outside! And tonight, dis city’ll be lit up like it was Christmas er somethin’. But whada we care? It’s just electricity, right? Always there when you need it and Chicago’s so purty all lit up at night.

Now lemme explain what light poverty is:

Just fer a minute, pertend—pertend mind you, that yer livin’ in a little village in the boonies of Kenya. Way out in the wilds. Got the picture?

There’s nothin’ around—well maybe a buncha big cats ‘n’ hyenas, that come out huntin’ whenever there’s a moon. And plenty o’ snakes come out at night too. You can hear all them insects–even swat ’em when they land on yer moist skin–if they’s small enough to swat. And yer happy to live just a couple miles from a well so you get a few sips o’ muddy water ever day.

So far it sounds like paradise, right? But here’s da rub: You got only so much time to find food fer yer family ‘cause when the sun goes down, that’s it fer the day! The night’s curtain falls so black you can’t see yer own nose. No light—no electricity—no nothin’. How d’ya like that fer quality o’ life?

Expensive Energy

“Wait a minute”, you say. “What about candles and kerosene lamps?” Turns out those ain’t real options. You spend all yer daylight hours tryin’ to make a livelihood but you can’t come up with the lousy 20 cents a day that it costs to burn a kerosene lamp. That kerosene costs 30% o’ yer income. Whadaya gonna do—conduct commerce around a bonfire? Hey bud—you ain’t goin’ nowhere. Yer stuck. And 85% of Kenyans are in this group. I say it’s a crock!

On the positive side, the only form o’ entertainment accounts fer a whole lot more more mouths t’ feed in the precious sweltering sunlight hours. Just fix that picture in yer mind ‘n’ let the magnitude o’ this thing’ll start to sink in.


Da Solution

Light up Africa

This idea turns out nice and simple. A real bright kid named Alan Hurt starts a new company called LIGHT UP AFRICA and brings out the ZOOM BOX—a little gadget that makes a powerful electric charge just from ordinary motion ‘n’ stores it fer use later on.

It’s small. You can attach it to most anything that moves. Maybe tie it to the tail o’ the nearest cow—I dunno. Actually it’s designed fer you to wear when yer walkin’ around.

Zoom BoxNo this ain’t no fashion statement but I could see summa them green politicians makin’ it one.

Remember, yer livin’ in Africa, not the good old US of A. Nothin’ gets done in Africa without walkin’. Ever’body walks everywhere all day long. That’s how you get to market. That’s how you make your living. Takes up mosta the day.

Turns out all that walkin’ can generate lotsa electricity. Motion is da fuel. Sweat is da pollution. Get the idea?

So now fer the first time you can run a light at night. So what’s the big deal about that? Believe me, it’s big. Things really get rollin’ from here. All kindsa possibilities open up fer you ‘cause with electricity, you can jump all the way from the stone age to high tech.

  • Fer starters, you can actually study a book inside yer own hut at night—and maybe learn somethin’!
  • Somebody builds a clinic and saves yer worthless hide one night when you get bit by somethin’ nasty—all because they got light.
  • Pretty soon you got a new micro-enterprise o’ some kind goin’. Other businesses spring up around you sellin’ stuff ‘n’ yer little villiage comes alive.
  • Yer business grows. You start sellin’ yer goods to places where lotsa people live.

Now yer new office is in one o’ them big population centers ‘n’ there’s allota compicated problems in those places. But when it comes to light, you got the same problem.

  • Sure, you got a lamp or two—even a cell phone. But power’s so scarce they’re talkin’ about creating a new currency around trading electricity.
  • If you couldn’t afford kerosene in the boonies, how often d’ya think yer gonna flip on a light switch in da city?
  • But you still got yer ZOOM BOX so you charge up yer cell phone ‘n’ carry on business. Maybe even sell yer stuff on Amazon to those of us back here in Chicago!

.Portable Electric Generation

Da Business

Ever’body can buy a ZOOM BOX on the cheap just like you did. It’s a one-and-done proposition. Meanwhile, LIGHT UP AFRICA is collaborating with microfinance institutions and non-government organizations. They’re settin’ up a network o’ distribution and repair facilities. Pretty soon, ever’body’s gotta have one o’ these things. Hey, in Zambia alone there’s 650,000 bicycle cabs pedlin’ all day long. Alotta them’s probably Buffalo Bicycles made by F.K. Day—all just waitin fer the ZOOM BOX to make the right kinda juice.

This idea’s so simple, it’s transformational. Ω



Go back to Part 1

Da Links

Check out dis cool video:

Light Up Africa
Contact – – 773-817-9053
c/o 1871, 222 West Merchandise Mart Plaza Suite 1212, Chicago, IL 60654

Impact Engine
Contact Linda Darragh –

Images courtesy Light Up Africa and Impact Engine

Impact Engine

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


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Filed under Characters, Crowd Sourced Novel, Electric Power, High Tech, Low Tech, Poverty, The Economy

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