Eddie Aijuka, an electrical engineer from Uganda, and his team have an innovation that will make the life of ‘kamyuufu’ hard, if not extinct. Aijuka’s invention, called Kamata, is designed to prevent electricity theft, a problem so widespread that it costs Umeme, the country’s largest energy supplier, $30 million a year.
“It was only when I visited an electricity company for a research project that I learned how huge a problem electricity theft is,” said Eddie.
After that visit, he couldn’t stop thinking about it, and so set out to investigate where along the supply all of this electricity was being siphoned off. When he realized that most of it was stolen through the tampering of electricity meters, Eddie knew he needed to find a solution.
Kamata was it – a small device that is installed just outside the meter box, to constantly measure the current flowing through the mains cables. A disruption in electricity flow to the metre could suggest that someone has bypassed or tampered with the metre, in order to steal electricity.
If it detects an attempt to bypass or tamper with the meter, it cuts the power and sends the GPS coordinates, customer name and details of the ‘interference’ to the supplier, in Uganda’s case, Umeme.
Kamata, which means ‘seize’, also stops the meter owner from rebooting it. Only Umeme can restore the electricity again.
Kamata’s electronic device uses physics principles of Kirchhoff’s laws, electromagnetism, voltage division and calculus. It has six modules; power supply, battery charging, voltage - current sensing, switching, communication and feedback modules. These six are all linked to a micro controller chip that gives and receives commands of action depending on the status of the device.
Eddie’s interest in electricity supply in Uganda goes beyond the technology, “I came from a village with no electricity at all,” he said in an earlier interview. “We simply couldn’t afford to pay for it. So, I think I studied electrical engineering because I wanted to bring electricity home!”
Surely then, I thought, he could understand why some people would risk electrocution to get access to a power supply? Eddie’s answer was immediate; “Power theft causes problems across the grid, and that forces suppliers to raise their prices. Stopping theft now will be better for everyone in the long term.”
Eddie launched his first 1000 units with Umeme and piloted the project mid-last year, with a wider roll-out planned, but as he said himself, “That won’t be the end, it is just the beginning.” Arguably, the market for Kamata in Africa is unlimited.