Daily Archives: 23 October 2012

Lighting Africa

In the article “Dead China-Make’’ Phones Off the Grid: Investigating Mobile Phone Use in Rural Africa they mentioned that, “In Kenya, only 20 percent of country’s population of about 40 million have access to electricity; the majority of those who do without live outside of the country’s cities” (2). When I looked in the bibliography to see where this fact was from it lead me to a website called lighting Africa. Lighting Africa is an IFC and WB program that helps to develop commercial off-grid lighting to markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. They’re goals are, “Initially mobilizing and supporting the commercial sector to supply high quality, affordable, and clean lighting to 2.5 million people by 2012. Ultimately eliminating market barriers so that the private sector can supply high quality, modern, off-grid lighting products to the 250 million people in Africa without electricity by 2030” (World Bank). They aim to do this by initially fostering conditions to facilitate the development of off-grid lighting markets.

How they  do it

According to the World Bank, “The undertaking will use high-tech compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) powered by renewable energy sources like solar and wind power and micro hydro and mechanical means like hand cranking and pedal power to illuminate homes, businesses, health centers and other sites that aren’t connected to the power grid ” (world bank). This power is affordable which is a main factor in many ict projects (as seen in the OLPC case). Additionally, in many sub Saharan African areas who live off the grid, supportive infrastructure is absent – instead of needing fossil fuel based electricity above alternative power sources are used. This is a way to integrate new technologies into these areas where it was never possible before. Another positive aspect with this is that in sub Saharan Africa where there is no electricity, when the sun goes down, the workday ends. This initiative counters this problem by providing light, “he Lighting Africa initiative will improve the lives and livelihoods of the target population by potentially extending the work day for small and medium enterprises, thus expanding production, enriching income opportunities, and improving working conditions” (world bank).

A potential drawback that I can see in this initiative is that energy sources like solar power are expensive which begs the issue as to whether or enough the imitative is sustainable, but based on the positive results (see below) it is doing very well so far.

August 2012 Results

  • 3,800,000 people with better lighting and increased energy access using solar lanterns in Africa
  • 780,000 quality off-grid lighting products sold that have passed Lighting Africa minimum quality standards
  • 78,000 Tone of GHG emission avoided CO2-equivalent to taking 15,000 cars off the road (lighting Africa)

Overall I think Lighting Africa is great. It combines green energy initatives, with business models, with a moral based aspect as well regarding extending the work day, increasing productivity, increasing safety, etc.  It is a need based operative that addresses a fundamental failure of ict4d programs—lack of infrastructure.