Following a massively successful Kickstarter pre-order campaign, a sun-powered smartphone charger and lamp dubbed the WakaWaka Power — not to be confused with the song of the same name by truth-telling hipped singer and near seal lion assault victim, Shakira — is now available for general purchase.

As I mentioned in my post last week about the conceptual Window Socket, the market for solar gadget chargers is a crowded one. It takes something truly special to stand out from the pack. I’ll just let WakaWaka Power’s initial round of crowdfunding — over $419,000 raised with an initial $50,000 goal — serve as a testament to how special it is. I should also point out that WakaWaka Power is younger sibling to the WakaWaka Lamp, a solar-powered reading light sans charger that also did some serious do-gooding damage in an earlier Kickstarter campaign.

The device itself is efficient (the integrated solar panel is 200 percent more efficient than its competitors according to Dutch parent company Off-Grid Solutions), sleek (I can vouch for this one — it’s the least bulky, most handbag-friendly solar charger I’ve ever had the pleasure of handling), and versatile (it's compatible with a range of smartphones and tablets including iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry).

And aside from possessing bragging rights of being able to charge a device in under two hours flat after a full day of sunlight, WakaWaka Power doubles as a reading lamp that lasts about 10 hours on a full charge (more than 40 hours if you aren’t also charging a device).

But that’s just the beginning as WakaWaka Power is a gizmo with a humanitarian mission to eliminate “energy poverty in our lifetime:”

WakaWaka is committed to radically shifting the balance for those living with economic and energy poverty by combining outstanding technology and a unique economic model that will provide empowerment so that the world’s poor can lift themselves out of poverty.

With each purchase of a $79 WakaWaka Power, $10 will be donated to the WakaWaka Foundation with the end goal to prevent the use of dangerous and polluting kerosene lamps in developing countries. Although Westerners don't hear much about the perils of crude oil-based kerosene, WakaWaka points out that the fuel is responsible for 16,000 injuries every day and that lamp-related accidents claim the lives of more children than malaria and TB.

While pre-orders of WakaWaka Power during its Kickstarter campaign aided ongoing earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti, the current emphasis is on providing units directly to Syrian refugees via the Stichting (the Dutch Refugee Foundation). Explains the WakaWaka website:

Families that left their homes and belongings behind, now lack clean drinking water, medical care and sanitary facilities. Because of the lack of electricity, proper lighting is scarce. The camps depend on kerosene lamps, which give poor light, evaporate toxic fumes and are highly flammable and thus very dangerous. Apart from that, kerosene is scarce and expensive. Accidents with these lamps results in thousands of burn injuries, mainly among children. Not the speak about the women and children that inhale their smoke, an equivalent up to two cigarette packs per day. Distribution of the WakaWaka Power’s will ensure that at least part of the refugees have access to free and safe lighting. It has been found that replacing kerosene lamps with off-grid solar lighting eliminates burn risks and increases school grades as well as income generating capacity. Because the Power can charge mobile phones, it also gives families a chance to stay in touch with next of kin.

As for my own experiences with the WakaWaka Power, I chose to test it out during a sun-challenged day resulting in a longer charge time. However, it worked like a charm. The LED indicator lights were particularly helpful — alerting me to when the sun-fueled battery was charging. Another LED indicator lit up when I connected my antiquated-smartphone-that-will-not-be-named via USB for a quick charge. And as mentioned, I’m mighty impressed with the device’s sleek, lightweight, and user-friendly profile that renders it a must-have for excursions and expeditions of all stripes.

Click here to learn more about the ins and outs of the WakaWaka Power. Or better yet, order one for yourself and help to support a noble cause. And in case you were wondering (especially after hearing it pronounced by Off-Grid Solutions co-founder Camille van Gestel in a strong Dutch accent in the above video), WakaWaka is Swahili for "shine bright."

Disclaimer: Off-Grid Solutions sent me a WakaWaka Power for review.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

WakaWaka Power: A solar charger with a humanitarian bent
A compact and powerful solar charger/lamp dubbed the WakaWaka Power launches just in time for the high season of outdoor expeditions.