Solar power in Developing countriesSince its inception 45 years ago, the Barefoot College has trained 1430 people from poor communities to install and maintain solar-powered electrical systems. This was mainly started with the aim of introducing solar power in developing countries.

The most remarkable fact of this program is that all of the students in the solar engineering program are women and they enter with absolutely no prior formal education. These solar engineers return to their villages with a sense of opportunity and independence not only for themselves but also for the community at large.

The founder of the program, Bunker Roy, recognized that the people living in the poor communities are immeasurably knowledgeable about the world around them and the needs of their people. Roy’s vision to bolster the use of solar power in developing countries started with the construction of the first Barefoot College in Tilonaia, India in 1977. It now operates in 100 countries around the globe and 15 states throughout India.

Impact of the Barefoot Program in Afghanistan

According to ALCS 2016-17 survey, only 26 percent of the population in Afghanistan had access to the electrical grid in the years 2011-12. In five years, that number got increased by five percent with around 31 percent of the population enjoying access to the grid. Yet, this access was heavily concentrated within urban areas. The majority of the people living in rural regions of Afghanistan were still yearning to come out of the dark.

The idea of Barefoot College – to enhance the use of solar power in developing countries – became a boon for many in the rural areas. In 2007, merely 2 percent of the households in Afghanistan were powered using solar panels. Today, that same figure has reached 59.4 percent at a national level and 73.2 percent in rural areas. While it’s impossible to tell how much of this success can be attributed directly to Barefoot College, Bunker Roy and his colleagues have undoubtedly made a significant impact.

In his 2011 TEDTalk, Roy shared the story of three illiterate Afghan women who had never left their homes. They came to India and trained to become solar engineers. On returning to Afghanistan, they electrified 100 villages, set up workshops and trained 27 more women to follow their footsteps.

One of the three women, a 55-year-old named Gul Bahar, provided solar electricity to 200 houses herself. She also took the opportunity to educate the head of a large engineering department in Afghanistan on the difference between AC and DC.

Today, more than 84 engineers have been trained by the graduates from Barefoot College to provide a fundamental service to thousands of Afghans in need. Afghanistan is now well on its way to becoming a fully electrified country with 97.7 percent of households having access to electricity. The difference between the electrification of rural and urban homes is also quickly disappearing.

Impact of the Barefoot Program in Honduras

Access to electricity in urban areas of Honduras has reached 100 percent, but one-quarter of the people living in rural areas are still living without it. These same areas are also subject to extreme poverty, severe droughts, and increasing uncertainty in the agricultural industry. Without access to electricity, families are dependent on kerosene lamps that provide poor light, emit toxic chemicals when burned and increase the risk of fire outbreaks.

With help from the Indian Government and the Small Grants Program (SGP), Barefoot College sought to improve the dire situation that the agrarian communities of Honduras find themselves in. Four women from different corners of Honduras were chosen to travel to the original Barefoot College campus in Tilonia, India. Iris Marlene Espinal, Carmen Lourdes Zambrano Cruz, Alnora Casy Estrada and Ingrid Miranda Martinez came to the campus without knowing how to read or write. However, through their practical knowledge, strong will and rugged resourcefulness, they returned home as solar engineers.

These four women have successfully installed 207 85-watt solar panel systems that power lamps, televisions, radios and cell phones for 54 families across Honduras. Without this new technology, the children of a small village called Los Hornos were unable to study indoors even during the day and were showing signs of respiratory issues. To further improve the quality of education for young children in Honduras, the engineers are installing solar systems in schools. The teachers there can now utilize modern technological tools in their lessons.

Seemingly small, incremental changes, like the introduction of solar power in developing countries, have massive implications for the quality of life in poor communities. As Alorna Casy stated in an interview with the UNDP, “We brought back a lot of knowledge to benefit our communities and, in a sense, to help them to escape from poverty”.

Enhancing Access to Solar Power in Developing Countries

In 2016, Barefoot College began the Pacific Island Solar initiative and is still working toward the initial goal of providing new technologies to 2,800 houses across 14 Pacific Island Countries. To date, 10,000 solar installations have already been completed and the construction of a Barefoot College located in Fiji has been approved. The institution is, thus, unstoppable in its mission to revolutionize the use of solar power in developing countries.

The new campus will provide solar engineering training alongside courses in Digital Technology Skills, Financial Literacy and Inclusion, Environmental Stewardship, Women’s Reproductive Health and Nutrition, Micro-enterprise Skills and much more.

Bunker Roy built his first college with the help of 12 “barefoot architects” who couldn’t read or write. Since then, the institution continues to empower those who lack resources but are intelligent enough and in desperate need of a future that fully utilizes their potential. Thus, the idea of enhancing access to solar power in developing countries will definitely spread light in many more dark corners of the world.

John Chapman
Photo: Flickr

10. Top 10 Facts About Poverty in PolandPoland’s future is in jeopardy. More specifically, the future of Poland’s youth is in jeopardy. While the country is dealing with difficult poverty issues, the youth of Poland face uncertainty in job perspective. Detailed in this list of the top 10 facts about poverty in Poland are the contributing factors to today’s crisis, as well as possible improvement in the future based on the projected increase of foreign aid to Poland.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Poland

  1. The CIA World Factbook estimates that 17 percent of Poland’s population is under the poverty line. The World Data Group defines the poverty line as earning anything below $1.90 per day. Poland’s total population is 37.95 million people, which means that there are 6.4 million people in poverty. To put this into perspective, that is the number of people that currently live in Indiana.
  2. According to the World Bank Data, unemployment in Poland is around 14 percent and among the young population, it is 25 percent. This level of unemployment was reached in small towns like Tarnobrzeg due to leaders prioritizing failed tourist attractions over the actual sources of employment and money. For example, the leaders of Tarnobrzeg shut down their mines to replace them with an artificial lake. The lake was only able to be used during the two warmest months of the year, hurting the town’s economy badly.
  3. While the average salary of Polish citizens is at an all-time high (around $963), the minimum wage is less than half of the average. Average rent across Poland ranges from $272 to $816.
  4. Many citizens give a large chunk of their paycheck to heating companies to stay warm during Poland’s harsh winters, resulting in a lesser amount of money to meet other survival needs. The average cost of heating in Poland is $180.
  5. Young people in Poland struggle to keep long-lasting employment because many agencies use temporary work. In the World Bank Data coverage of poverty in Poland, the story states that 27 percent of the young population faces “junk contracts” that do not help their living situations. “Junk contracts” are temporary contracts for workers that do not offer a stable income, a source of long-term financial stability or any health benefits. These job prospects are so terrible that around one million people between the ages of 15 and 24 travel abroad to earn higher wages. Between 2009 and 2011, only 40.3 percent of temporary workers were able to get permanent jobs, according to the Social Diagnosis survey.
  6. Education is becoming the important focus for young people in Poland. Despite 80 percent of the youth population attending schools that lead to higher education, future employers are uninterested in these dedicated students and fail to train them instead. Social Europe’s report on youth unemployment in Poland claims that less than 23 percent of Polish companies cooperated with a school or a center for practical training.
  7. World Bank Data claims that Poland’s economy grew 81 percent between 1990 and 2010. However, the wage gaps between the wealthy and those below the poverty line also grew. Scientific Research Journal found that “rising income inequalities were exacerbated as Poland’s economy grew and private ownership expanded”.
  8. Approximately 35 percent of children under the age of 17 rely on government assistance. Not only that, but World Socialist Web reports that 3 percent of families with more than one child cannot afford to feed all members of the family. The Polish government only plans on allowing approximately $220 million in government funding each year until 2020.
  9. In 2015, World Bank Data released a report claiming that spending programs in support of low-income families in Poland are well targeted and that they mostly benefit low-income households. While this is a great start, Poland must expand its assistance to the poor. World Bank Data stated that a solution to this problem would be for the government to investigate the causes of this high poverty level and start there. Some government assistance programs realize that this is an important step and have suggested the implementation of a family cash bonus entitled Rodzina 500+. This step will also look into how to restructure the system so that low-income families are the first to receive support.
  10. According to USAID, the U.S. gave Poland approximately $13 million in 2016. However, a large portion of the funding is going towards the military. The amount of aid going to Poland has substantially dropped in the last 15 years. On average, the U.S. gave between $50 million and $80 million until 2015. In 2016, $11 million went to military aid and a grand total of $6,400 went to maternal and child health.

Poland’s poverty crisis is not quite at a catastrophic level. The people are surviving and the government is acknowledging the crisis. These top 10 facts about poverty in Poland attempt to show the spectrum of issues and possible solutions for Poland. Poland’s government, as well as the U.S.’s foreign aid system, can help the underprivileged and prevent this situation from worsening.

– Miranda Garbaciak

Photo: Flickr

Electricity Coverage Rising in AfricaIt is hard to imagine life without electricity. In the American standard of living, electricity pervades every aspect of a person’s life, from food storage to entertainment and everything in between. In Africa, however, only 30 percent of people have access to electricity.

Power Africa

Power Africa is a USAID agency that aims to provide people in Africa with access to electricity. They plan to make 60 new electricity connections and generate 30,000 more megawatts (MW) of electricity across the continent by 2030. The goal is to do this by harnessing the sun, wind, lake water, and natural gas to power rural areas that do not have access to electricity.

Power Africa tracks its progress on various projects by tracking business transactions with African power companies. For example, in 2016, they made a deal with the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative (ACEF), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Department of State to provide $30 million worth of financing of 32 renewable energy projects in 10 countries in Africa. With Power Africa’s help, 90 business transactions have been completed and 25 of Africa’s 55 countries now have access to some form of electricity. Examples from Power Africa actions are described in a text below.

Mali

Although the demand for electricity in Mali is currently greater than the supply, that does not mean that there is no supply at all. Electricity in Mali currently comes from mostly hydraulic and thermal energy (55 and 44 percent, respectively). Power Africa plans to help Mali produce an additional 80 MW of hydroelectric energy, more than 300 MW from biomass, and unlimited MW from the sun.

Electricity usage has already gone up in Mali. Major mining companies increased their energy consumption by 136 MW (189 percent) between 2008 and 2011. In 2016, the government passed a law mandating partnerships between public and private electric companies in order to increase MW production. The ultimate goal is to make an additional 20,000 MW of energy and distribute it to 50 million people by 2020.

Namibia

Currently, Namibia gets most of its electricity from power grids in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and other nearby countries. However, electricity demand in these countries is way higher than supply, forcing Namibia to find ways to generate its own electricity. As of 2008, Namibia can only generate 393 MW from 3 stations, while the national demand is 533 MW.

One of these stations, the Ruacana power station, is dependent on the flow of water from the Kunene River, which flows out of Angola. Another station, the coal-run Eck power station, is costly to operate and maintain. Eck, along with the oil-based Paratus power station, is only used for short-term peaks in electricity demand.

For the time being, Namibia still needs to have its electricity needs met by its neighbors. The Caprivi link is a transmission line that connects Namibia’s power grid to those in Zambia and Zimbabwe. This provides the country with an additional 600 MW, fulfilling Namibia’s electricity needs. In 2007, Namibia consumed 3.6 TWh of electricity.

Tanzania

Most of Tanzania’s electricity (90 percent) comes from biomass. This has resulted in mass deforestation and, thus, is far from ideal for the ecosystem. Only 18.4 percent of Tanzanian citizens have access to electricity in any form. Currently, the country is financially incapable of extending the power grid into all rural areas.

In 1975, the government founded the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Ltd (TANESCO). TANESCO has a nationwide monopoly on electricity production and distribution. However, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals (MEM) is trying to end this monopoly by allowing companies to get licenses to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. The Rural Energy Agency (REA) is slowly getting electricity into rural areas. With these services, the government aims to make electricity available to everyone in Tanzania, and one can see electricity coverage rising from their efforts.

Conclusion

In the modern day, electricity seems like a basic ingredient for life that it seems like everyone should have it. The people in Power Africa agree and we can see electricity coverage rising in Africa as a result of their efforts. Mali is making more energy from more sources than ever, Namibia is starting to make its own electricity, and Tanzania is spreading electricity out as far as it can. Africa is becoming more and more electrified, reaching the ultimate goal- provide access to electricity for everyone on the continent.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

The Green Dream: Sustainability in Central America Eradicates Poverty
Despite being home to more than 40 million people, Central America harbors many cities yet to be touched by electrical grids. Currently, one in 10 Central Americans lives quite literally in the dark, with no access to electricity. But through the Regional Clean Energy Initiative (RCEI) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and regulated by Tetra Tech and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), more Central American areas will have power and sustainable means to produce it.

Why Sustainable Energy Is The Future

The Central American economy is developing and generates a growth rate of more than 3 percent annually. The biggest barrier to a further increase in this rate comes from the lack of productivity in most regions after sunset. Due to the absence of natural light and electricity, residents cannot do any manual labor; as a result, there is an abrupt halt in business outputs after a certain time of day.

Lack of power also prevents children from studying in the evenings, which makes it more difficult for their education to progress at a regular pace; the electricity absence often leads to incomplete homework and inadequate revision of material. Finally, the lack of electricity also introduces the risk of health hazards for those who work in the dark.

Creating Sustainability

Most might claim that the simple introduction of a power source can eradicate these problems, but it is actually more imperative to create sustainability in Central America. Currently, the estimated 7 million people who do not have access to electricity live far from the cities and their well-established grids.

To ensure that power reaches these members of the population, IRENA and the Central American governments are working towards moving away from fossil fuel dependence and towards the development of identified renewable energy sources. This works in their favor because these rural areas have larger spaces to channel energy from natural phenomena (such as sunlight and wind) and cultivate it for use.

Renewable sources of energy can also effectively satiate the high demand for electricity in these regions. Worldwatch Institute revealed that geothermal energy alone has the potential to meet twice the predicted regional electricity demand till 2020.

Currently, only 1 percent of the available resources are used to install windmills to produce energy, leaving enough for developing solar and biomass sources too. Improving sustainability in Central America is thus the most affordable and optimum way to equip deserving rural communities with electricity.

The Implementation

The RCEI is currently implemented in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Tetra Tech plays an important role in this by implementing a joint regulatory and trade policy to strengthen the regional electricity market and make it more accommodating to sustainable energy.

This is supported by the Central America Regional Regulator (CRIE) and the regional market operator (EOR), who are both in charge of proposing mechanisms for sustainable energy use and frameworks that entail the burden of implementation shared by local operators and other market stakeholders.

Tetra Tech has also been successful in developing standards and quality-checks for equipment and energy efficiency. These standards ensure that the renewable resources are optimally utilized for the best possible results.

Thanks to these equipment standards, the city of Zacatecoluca in El Salvador now has a five-mile stretch of streets powered by quality LED streetlights. Not only are they illuminating the city in the night, they are also making it a safer place for its 40,000 residents.

The Way Forward

The introduction of electricity to these regions mitigates the risk of health hazards and economic stagnation. As systems continue to power the countries even in the dark, people can work longer hours and accomplish more every day.

Inhabitants will also begin to feel safer at night and become motivated to work after the sun sets in order to earn more. More importantly, the setup of a regional framework of sustainable energy allows improved transport and communication links between the participating countries, which can lead to more trade and a higher national output.

As electricity is slowly introduced, people become healthier, safer and equipped with higher incomes to fight poverty. Sustainability in Central America is hence the affordable green dream its people need today.

– Sanjana Subramanian
Photo: Flickr

internet to isolated communitiesAround the world, 1.3 million of people do not have access to energy and 3.5 million cannot access the internet. To minimize this problem, the global foundation Un Litro de Luz (Liter of Light) has created Linternet – smart poles that provide access to light and the internet to isolated communities in Colombia. Through a micro-franchise model, the initiative connects the most vulnerable sectors of Colombia’s society to the internet while also creating employment opportunities.

Founded by Camilo Herrera, Un Litro de Luz is a sustainable illumination project that aims to bring low-cost solar energy and internet to isolated communities, empowering them and teaching them how to build simple illumination systems.

Bringing Internet to Isolated Communities

“Linternet was born as a stage of Un Litro de Luz in which we empower communities so that they can build and replicate the internet coverage model in Colombian rural areas,” says the ambassador of Un Litro de Luz Sergio Espinosa. With the goal of transforming communities, the project is present in several other countries such as Ghana, Pakistan, the Philippines, Kenya and the U.S.

Finding Solutions to Limited Resources

According to Espinosa, Un Litro de Luz and Linternet both represent extensions of public resources. The projects aim to teach the communities’ residents that, even though these resources are limited, they are able to find their own solutions. The citizens are the ones who build the whole system during a workshop with Un Litro de Luz. “They understand how the system works, can learn how to maintain it and, also, at the end of the process, feel like the light poles belong to them and they take care of it,” explains Espinosa.

The lights are made with solar panels and plastic lamps, have low power consumption, and high luminosity and durability. In the light poles, there are signal replicators that allow the connection to the internet. The poles have a connection range of two kilometers so people can have internet not only next to the light poles, but also at home.

Creating a Positive Impact

Un Litro de Luz and Linternet have several positive impacts. They help the environment, by promoting recycling of plastic and solar energy. The internet also facilitates education in these communities and allows better health care via systems of online appointments and medical diagnosis. Lighting dark paths provides safety, especially for women and girls. 

So far, more than 237,000 people have benefited from the organization’s illumination systems and 3,500 have access to the internet because of Linternet. “When we bring technology and internet to isolated communities, we not only provide them with infrastructure but also with opportunities and information,” says Camilo Herrera.

– Júlia Ledur
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered appliancesElectricity is difficult to come by in sub-Saharan Africa, India and other places in the world. In 2016, an estimated 588 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and 239 million people in India were without electricity. Slowly, more people are gaining access to electricity, specifically through solar-powered appliances and lighting.

Current Issues with Electricity

A lot of the rural cities or areas do not have electricity because they are not nearby to an electricity grid. People in Tanzania, like Lusela Murandika, power TV sets with diesel generators and other parts of their homes with charcoal, wood and other biomass.

Using resources like coal, charcoal, dung or wood as a source of electricity pollutes the breathable air that is needed to survive. According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million people a year die from illnesses that are tied to air pollution.

Kerosene used in lamps is also a dangerous product to use. It produces soot and toxic smoke that “damages lungs and causes other serious health problems,” according to National Geographic. The use of kerosene lamps, especially ones that are homemade, are dangerous because thousands of children and adults die or are burned from them.

How Solar-Powered Appliances Are Changing Things

Technological advancements have made it easy for solar-powered appliances to become more readily available to purchase. Something as simple as a solar bottle light bulb runs around $2-3.

The solar bottle light bulb is “made out of a plastic bottle of purified water and bleach, [that] is sealed into the roof,” according to National Geographic. The water allows for light to be spread out in the room and the chlorine keeps mold from growing. The solar bottle light bulb not only works with the sunlight but it also works when the moonlight is strong as well. It allows for the people in the home to be able to do more within the household, like study, read or work inside.

Connecting people that live in rural areas to an electrical grid sometimes is not possible or it becomes too expensive to be able to afford. Electricity then becomes a luxury that people cannot afford. Sometimes, people wait years for a grid to be built near them, but having solar-powered appliances allows for them to have access to that technology much sooner.

Organizations Assisting the Distribution of Solar Power

In 2016, four U.S. foundations announced an initiative “to support efforts to bring reliable ‘off-grid’ or ‘mini-grid’ power—fueled by solar energy—to people in India who now are without it,” according to Think Progress. The foundations include Hewlett, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Jeremy & Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. All four foundations have initiated a $30,000,000 initiative to fund the program and the Indian government is set to match this.

Furthermore, a company by the name of Easy Solar is helping provide electricity to the residents of Sierra Leone. This company is lead by Nthabiseng Mosia, Alexandre Toure and Eric Silverman. Easy Solar began in 2015 as a response to energy accessibility in Sierra Leone. In an interview from Business Report with Nthabiseng Mosia, she stated, “It’s often widely publicized that two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans lack access to electricity. But in Sierra Leone, 90 percent of people (and 99 percent in rural areas) don’t have any electricity.”

With Easy Solar, appliances are set up so that consumers are on a rent-to-own basis, providing weekly payments. Some of the devices that the business offers are lights and mobile chargers as well as solar lanterns that have the capability of charging phones and offer more than 24 hours of light. The company’s appliances are not just limited to households but are also for businesses as well.

There are many organizations on the ground that are helping individuals obtain the necessary materials to be able to survive that will not cost them their lives. Solar-powered appliances are one solution that is helping eradicate poverty.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

SunSalutor: Providing Energy and Water to Impoverished CountriesWorldwide, there are about 1.5 billion people without electricity and about 750 million people who do not have access to clean water. These are life’s basic necessities and people are unfortunately lacking in these resources. Thankfully, there is a new piece of technology called the SunSalutor that is providing energy and water to impoverished countries.

Solar panels are a popular solution when discussing how to bring energy to those in poverty. Solar panels have been successful but they are not as energy efficient as many would like them to be. Eden Full Goh, the founder and creator of SunSalutor, has made it possible for solar panels to track the sun which allows for more energy to be collected.

How the SunSalutor Works

A single axis tracker with a water weight at the east end and a counterweight on the west end allows for a solar panel to track the sun. The tracking is powered by gravity and water. The water weight drips water throughout the day, making itself lighter.

As the water weight becomes lighter, the solar panel begins to shift thanks to the counterweight. With the appropriate adjustment on how quickly the water weight drips water, the solar panel will track the sun throughout the day and collect more energy than it would if it was standing still.

But that is not all the SunSalutor does. The dripping water can also be filtered to create clean drinking water. So, not only is the SunSalutor providing energy to impoverished countries, it is also providing water.

Benefits of the SunSalutor

One of the great benefits that come with the SunSalutor is the low cost. At most, an entire SunSalutor costs around $10 to $15. The main frame is built from local materials such as bamboo or wood. Because of this, the SunSalutor can be maintained and fixed locally. The cost for a SunSalutor set is 30 times cheaper than traditional panels.

The SunSalutor also eliminates the need for kerosene gas generators. Buying kerosene gas can become expensive over time and generators can create a lot of noise. Furthermore, they produce CO2 emissions which can end up polluting the air. The SunSalutor eliminates all of these issues.

Providing Energy and Water to Impoverished Countries

According to the official SunSalutor website, in Mpala, Kenya, there was a village that did not have electricity. The inhabitants had to rely on kerosene gas to have electricity in their village. Villagers had to travel two hours round-trip to receive the necessary kerosene gas. They also had to do this to charge their cellphones. Thanks to the SunSalutor, these villagers can now stay within their village and produce electricity locally.

Providing energy and water to impoverished countries can have a lot of benefits. Thanks to the electricity gained, children can now study for longer and be prepared for school the next day. If these children do well in school, they can possibly break the cycle of poverty that they have been in. The SunSalutor is not only providing energy and water to impoverished countries, it can also provide people a way out of poverty.

– Daniel Borjas
Photo: Flickr

powering Africa
Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. With better access to electricity, Africans will have the opportunity to grow socially and economically. Power Africa, a five-year initiative launched by former president Barack Obama, aims to increase access to reliable, affordable and sustainable power in Africa and in turn support Africa’s economic growth.

The initiative is powering Africa by facilitating the cooperation of governments around the world, the private sector and technical and legal experts to increase Africans’ access to power by using the natural resources of the sun, wind, streams, lakes and natural gas.

Powering Africa Key to the Continent’s Economic Development 

Access to electricity is an opportunity for economic and social growth. Power Africa aims to generate 30,000 more megawatts of electricity and electrify another 60 million homes and businesses. Since 2013, Power Africa has closed 90 power transactions valued at more than $14.5 billion, which are expected to generate more than 7,500 megawatts of power in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although 7,500 megawatts seems minuscule compared to the goal of more than 30,000 megawatts, Power Africa’s deal tracking tool application is publicly tracking 440 transactions totaling 33,444 megawatts, and it is internally tracking 800 transactions that have the potential to add another 75,000 megawatts. Additionally, it has facilitated more than 10 million electrical connections, bringing electricity to more than 50 million people. 

Power Africa is connecting homes and businesses through off-grid and small-scale renewable power projects. Beyond the Grid, a sub-initiative launched in June 2014, is powering Africa by working to unlock investment and growth in off-grid energy and electricity access projects across the African continent. Power Africa has funded off-grid companies and projects that have enabled tens of millions of people to gain access to electricity for the first time. 

Power Africa’s Reach Extends to Many Aspects of the Global Economy

Power Africa also focuses on the role of women in Africa’s power sector. The USAID 2017 Power Africa Report revealed the correlation between workforce diversity and performance and showed that companies that invest in women outperform their peers. Power Africa strives to promote gender equality and female empowerment by supporting projects, programs and policies that promote the engagement of both men and women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Additionally, Power Africa is one of the largest public-private partnerships in history, with more than $54 billion in commitments and more than 150 public and private sector partners. While it strives to power Africa by sustaining economic growth, it also provides economic opportunities for American taxpayers, workers and businesses. As the five-year initiative came to a close, USAID Administrator Mark Green announced Power Africa 2.0, a continuation of the original Power Africa. 

Green stated, “Under Power Africa 2.0, we will be expanding beyond our previous targets of increased energy generation and access and looking to make gains in the areas of distribution and transmission. And perhaps most importantly, we will be taking on the enabling environments that allow private enterprise to grow and thoroughly flourish.” 

In its next phase, this initiative powering Africa will focus on improving environments and making sure utilities are stable. It will also target U.S. outreach to help U.S. companies see the opportunities that exist in Africa.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Flickr

Electrification to Reduce Poverty in AfricaLack of infrastructure in Africa has continued to perpetuate its impoverished state. Poverty in Africa is caused by dozens of factors which contribute to intergenerational poverty, but a key issue is access to electricity. Although access to electricity has advanced, there are still many more improvements to be made.

In Africa, access to electricity has been a serious challenge. Two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. In total, there are over 600 million Africans without connection to an electrical network. Reports from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Africa Outlook state that on average, electricity consumption per capita is not even enough to power a 50-watt light bulb continuously.

Even with electricity, reliability is low. Twenty-five of the 54 countries in Africa report frequent power crises including outages, irregular supply and high electricity costs. This creates numerous problems and constraints for individuals and businesses.

Investments in Africa’s electrification offer many benefits beyond the important direct job creation in energy infrastructure. Evidence suggests that household electrification also increases job opportunities due to its ability to allow people more working time, and enables the growth of rural micro-entrepreneurship. Improvements appear to be underway, with a variety of recent initiatives aimed at investment in electrification.

Africa’s demand for electricity is also growing. With a current growth rate of 6 percent per year, it will likely exceed GDP growth until 2040. This has sparked private investment and stimulated more diversified project financing. As a result, sub-Saharan Africa has seen power generation increase by 21 percent, with Chinese contractors accounting for 30 percent of this growth, to reach 115 gigawatts between 2010 and 2015.

Investment interest in Africa’s electrification has continued to increase since 2011. Of the 38 sectors reported in the Financial Times fDi Markets database, which monitors investment projects, capital investment and job creation, the alternative/renewable energy sector was the third most attractive for companies who invested in Africa in 2015 and 2016.

One major investment highlight was the $21 billion for new projects, many of which focus on renewable sources of energy. Investment trends in the renewable energy sector continue to be especially impressive, further combating poverty in Africa. Ethiopia has been seen as a leader in clean energy infrastructure, having generated the bulk of its energy needs from hydropower and other investments in geothermal, solar and wind. Its recent creation of the Ashegoda wind farm has the capacity of generating 120MW.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the development of the Grand Inga Dam has the potential to generate 40,000MW of electricity. Both of these provide Africans with not only more access to electricity but also ways make it more affordable.

Improving access to electricity is essential to decreasing poverty in Africa. It provides households and businesses with a tool for successful operation. There have been great strides in solving this problem in Africa, yet much work still needs to be done. Estimates from the World Bank concluded that 93 percent of Africa’s economically viable hydropower potential remains unexploited.

Persistent challenges need to be addressed by the government. A Greenpeace South Africa report found that two main challenges are changing misconceptions about renewable energy’s capabilities and developing the political will to invest in clean energy infrastructure. There is no doubt that through the electrification of Africa, many new opportunities for its countries will be brought to light.

– Ashley Quigley

Photo: Flickr

Power Up Gambia
Healthcare remains an issue that requires constant attention around the globe. Many work to stop the spread of disease, provide vaccinations and treatments, monitor women’s health and accomplish many more vital tasks. One organization, however, uses a different approach to improving healthcare — Power Up Gambia works to provide solar power to improve healthcare facilities within the Gambia.

 

Healthcare in the Dark

The Gambia is one of the smallest and poorest countries in Africa. Healthcare is delivered by only five hospitals, and most citizens receive their healthcare from rural health clinics throughout the country. Power Up Gambia was founded when Kathryn Hall, a medical student, visited the Gambia in 2002.

Power Up Gambia board member, Dee Bertino, spoke to The Borgen Project, and described Hall’s reaction to this trip as being “overcome at how the hospitals and medical clinics struggled to meet their patient’s most basic needs without reliable electricity.”

She went on to describe some of what she witnessed during this trip including, “Caesareans and other surgeries were often performed by candlelight, premature infants died without access to an incubator, life-saving vaccines were destroyed without adequate refrigeration.” When Hall returned to the United States, she began fundraising to provide electricity to these Gambian healthcare facilities.

 

Solar-Powered Solution

Power Up Gambia took on the problem of healthcare in the Gambia and decided on the clean and efficient solution of solar power. The organization has been able to provide electricity to hospitals and serve a total of over 1.6 million patients. These actions not only provide light but also life-saving water, heat and refrigeration for medication.

So far, Power Up Gambia has brought electricity to 23 hospitals and clinics. The Gambia has over 60 health clinics in rural communities that bring healthcare to farmers, but most still do not have access to electricity. They have partnered with We Care Solar and, as of 2017, were able to bring portable solar power kits to every one of these locations. This assistance has been crucial during nighttime health emergencies. and the organization also keeps spare parts for these kits on hand and trains Gambian technicians to be able to complete any potential repairs.

These technicians are trained at the Gambia Technical Training Institute where Power Up Gambia has implemented a curriculum on solar energy and solar technology to ensure the sustainability of health centers.

 

Future for Gambian Healthcare

Power Up Gambia has been able to do significant work in The Gambia, but its work is far from finished. The organization is currently working to upgrade its systems to meet increasing needs as well as installing a new “green” battery that will provide more power with less of an environmental impact. Bertino says, “At Power Up Gambia, we believe that healthcare should not just be limited to the wealthy.” With continued support, Power Up Gambia will continue to improve the Gambian healthcare system and provide a healthier future for all citizens.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Pixabay