Chinese engineers are smart but they don’t really get what Whit is trying to do in Ghana. Here was a typical conversation with a factory sales rep named Pinky, who also had an engineering degree:
WHIT: Our clients have no electricity and live on six RMB [about a dollar] a day. You might think that means we should make the product cheaper so they can afford it. But in fact if the product is better and more efficient they will use less batteries, which is their real ongoing expense.
PINKY (choosing a dynamo-powered phone charger from a shelf, demonstrating the hand crank action): No batteries!
WHIT: I see. And how long do you need to crank that to fully charge a phone?
PINKY: Maybe four hour.
WHIT: Ah. Most of my clients are busy on their farms.
PINKY: Is for emergency only.
WHIT: My clients live an emergency.