Pollution in Africa
Africa is a continent that is in a state of impoverishment; as of 2015, 413 million citizens of Africa live in poverty. Due to a lack of resources, Africa struggles with maintaining its environment and reducing its pollution levels. The pollution in Africa is becoming worse as the state of poverty worsens. Impoverished communities rely heavily on their environmental state, and people should place the issue of pollution at a higher importance. Here are 10 facts about pollution in Africa.

10 Facts About Pollution in Africa

  1. Water Pollution: The quality of the water accessible to those in Africa is essential; according to a study in 2009, “water is said to be a national asset… one on which [their] economic and social development” relies upon. A major cause of water pollution in Africa is the throwing of general waste into local bodies of water. Communities in poverty do not usually have the funding to create proper waste-management systems so they pollute their water supplies instead.
  2. Metal Pollution in Soil: Once a water source suffers pollution, the contaminants can spread into the soil that supplies food and economic activity. People have found metals from local waste in the soil of major agricultural plots of land. The metals found have now become a public health risk due to the already high levels of pollution in Africa. Areas could implement better filtration devices to reduce metals in soil.
  3. Air Pollution: Air pollution is Africa’s biggest environmental risk. Air pollution is a major problem throughout all of the world with over 90 percent of people living in a place that does not meet WHO air quality guidelines. In Africa, air pollution is becoming the most dangerous environmental risk that residents face. South Africa specifically faces higher air pollution because of a lack of governmental enforcement of laws preventing pollution. Local environmental groups are suing the South African government so that it may make a change.
  4. Emissions: Africa produces a high amount of emissions due to its lack of resources. Everyday life including cooking, waste-management and heating of items adds to the current state of air pollution because citizens have to make fires for their different needs. Emissions in impoverished communities cause a different kind of pollution that affects the direct community at high levels. Road vehicles and outdoor forms of heating are examples of low-level emissions that cause air pollution in Africa. The industrialization that could prevent outdoor pollution is in progress but still requires attention to prevent emissions.
  5. Acid Rain: Acid rain is becoming more prevalent due to pollution. Coal-burning in South Africa causes occurrences of acid rain. Coal-burning derived air pollution releases dangerous gases that can poison plants, contaminate communities and produce damaging acid rain. A factory in South Africa was responsible for the emission of 1.84 million tons of sulphuric acid and 0.84 million tons of nitric acid in 1987. Further enforcement of environmental laws could reduce the acid rain that large coal-burning companies cause.
  6. Children and Air Pollution: Children are at an especially high risk of death by air pollution and children that expose themselves to outdoor pollutants are more likely to suffer the effects than adults. The spread of diseases air pollution causes are negatively impacting the life expectancy of children. Around 7.8 million people will die prematurely from direct or indirect exposure from emissions specifically caused by cooking. Children require more medical attention and environmental education to reduce air pollution in Africa.
  7. Multination Companies: Multinational companies play a part in pollution. Environmental faults from multinational companies and trade activities are continuing to add to the pollution in Africa. Governmental enforcement for laws requiring business and trading activities to be more environmentally friendly is low. Companies and trading acts cause the release of gas, oil spills, waste accumulating on the ground or in water and the lack of higher technology, increasing air and water pollution.  Further development of resources will help reduce the pollution from multinational companies and trade activities.
  8. The United Nations Environment Programme: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that an estimate of  600,000 deaths every year relate to pollution in Africa. The UNEP is providing aid to the leading energy and global transport organizations, and some of the UNEP’s focuses are on fuel economy and development of infrastructure. Programs that the UNEP has implemented include the Global Fuel Efficiency Initiative, Share the Road, Partnerships for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, Africa Sustainable Transport Forum and Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The pollution in Africa will decrease if programs like the UNEP continue their hard work.
  9. Air Sensors: Air sensors are creating a cleaner way of life in Kenya. Air quality and pollution in Africa is an ever-evolving issue and demands ever-evolving solutions. Particles in the air small enough to enter the bloodstream are becoming more evident and Kenya is in dire need of change. According to the WHO, the fine particulate matter in Nairobi, Kenya is 70 percent above the maximum level. The WHO has implemented sensors that can read the particles in the air and determine the safety level.
  10. Africa’s Potential Green Revolution: Once Africa properly takes care of its plentiful resources, it has the potential to start a green revolution and save millions. In East Africa, residents have pioneered off-grid solar energy and created a model that other African regions could follow. These residents’ governments plan on investing in solar and wind power plants which would provide clean and affordable energy. Energy by solar and wind plants will reduce the amount of pollution in Africa because residents will no longer have to use low-level energy methods which destroy air quality.

Pollution in Africa is in a state of emergency. Air pollution is the biggest environmental danger to Africa currently; air pollution only increases due to a lack of higher-level infrastructure to reduce air emissions. Local enforcement of regulations on multinational companies and trade activity should benefit Africa’s environmental state.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in Yemen
Yemen is currently embroiled in one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. More than two-thirds of the country’s population is in need of some form of humanitarian aid or support, and food insecurity continues to affect large numbers of its citizens. Ultimately, only peace will quell the ongoing crisis in Yemen because humanitarian aid can only go so far.

Despite this, many organizations are still making active efforts to help the state and brainstorm new, innovative efforts to address the crisis in Yemen. As the crisis seems to grow in scope and severity, it appears that various organizations worldwide are becoming more dedicated to both helping the Yemeni people and searching for potential solutions. Here is a list of the organizations aiding those in crisis in Yemen.

Organizations Addressing the Crisis in Yemen

  • The International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee is currently calling upon U.N. Security Council members to encourage diplomacy and peace negotiations between warring groups contributing to the crisis in Yemen. The committee helps more than 21,000 people obtain nutrition services and health care weekly.
  • Save the Children: The Save the Children organization has set up temporary learning facilities and child-friendly spaces in order to foster learning and growth for children that the crisis in Yemen has displaced. So far, the organization has supported over a million children by providing essential training in schools and distributing food to children and pregnant mothers.
  • Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger recently joined together with various other organizations in calling on governments to end hostilities in the region and suspend the supply of arms and other weaponry. The crisis in Yemen continuously worsens due to the supply of arms from various sources.
  • Creative Generation: Some Yemeni women have come together to form an organization with technological innovations to aid the crisis in Yemen. The organization is Creative Generation and aims to harness solar power as a guaranteed source of energy in the hopes of combating rising fuel prices and scarce availability.
  • The World Bank: The World Bank currently reports that the solar sector within Yemen is booming and remains promising. Additionally, solar energy systems currently reach up to 50 percent of Yemeni households in rural areas and 75 percent in other urban areas.
  • The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project: The World Bank approved a $50 million IDA-funded grant for The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project in April 2018. The program aims to expand access to electricity through the distribution of solar energy systems with a particular focus on rural areas that the crisis in Yemen heavily affected. Estimates determine that 20 to 30 percent of this investment will create jobs and help boost the country’s economy.
  • UNICEF: UNICEF covers over 75 percent of all water, sanitation and hygienic solutions to the cholera epidemic stemming from the crisis in Yemen. The organization’s recent solar-powered water project has immensely helped the northern governorates Al Jawf and Sa’ada. This project has given these Yemeni communities access to safe drinking water in their own homes.

In spite of the overwhelming crisis in Yemen, it seems that the international community and various aid organizations are managing to not only see the brighter side of things but also put forth innovative efforts to address multiple issues. Some of these efforts are to encourage peacemaking processes, and others have directly impacted Yemeni lives positively by providing life-saving care and aid. The future can still be optimistic; behind-the-scenes talks resembling peace negotiations have recently occurred in Oman between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.

The country still has divisions with different groups holding control over various areas, so the organizations providing aid must continue in their efforts and mobilize others to do the same. As peace negotiations hopefully proceed and bring an end to the seemingly endless war, the international community must remain ready to help citizens following the crisis in Yemen. The Yemeni people’s resilience and innovation are admirable to a remarkable degree, but the country cannot pull itself out of crisis alone.

– Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

The Kingdom of Morocco lies in the northwestern corner of Africa. A desire for the country to become less energy-dependent and more dedicated to the preservation of the environment brought on rapid progress in renewable energy. Drawing attention from energy and environmental communities alike, Morocco has an ambitious goal to reach 42 percent renewable energy by 2020. Making use of its most abundant natural resource, the sun, has greatly helped the country stay on track to meet this goal. The success of solar power in Morocco allowed the country to reach 35 percent renewable energy as of July 2019.

The Noor-Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Complex

Sitting near the southeastern Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is a solar energy complex. The Noor-Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Complex is a massive, more than 6,000-acre facility (roughly the size of San Francisco) that produces enough energy to power the country’s capital Marrakesh twice over. Additionally, the solar plant brings a new level of ingenuity to solar power in Morocco. A traditional solar plant faces the problem of supplying consistent power when the sun is not out. Batteries that temporarily store power are expensive and the environmental impacts are questionable.

In contrast, the Noor CSP Complex can supply constant power 24/7 to the 2 million people who draw power from it. Rather than using photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity, the plant utilizes two million sun-tracking mirrors that reflect light to a receiver at the top of the 800-foot tower in the center of them all. The receiver has a mix of liquid salts that superheats and stays hot for 7.5 hours, which is important since energy usage spikes in the evening after the sun sets. The stored heat then superheats water tanks that create steam and turn turbines to generate electricity. The energy then flows out to the public, much like any other electricity but furthers energy independence of the country.

What Does This Mean for Poverty?

People have long thought of adequate access to electricity as one of the fundamental aspects of development. The World Bank goes as far as to say that electricity is “at the heart of development.” In Morocco, much of the population has access to electricity due to the affordability of its energy sector. The recent drive to invest in renewable energy caused the price of electricity to drop significantly. Additionally, renewable energy assures Morocco’s rural population that their source of energy is affordable. According to Mohammed Jamil al-Ramahi, the CEO of Masdar (the company that received the contract for the Noor CSP Complex), “It is now cheaper to build renewable energy power plants than those based on fossil fuels.”

Not only is renewable energy cheaper by itself, but since Morocco started investing in domestic power generation, it can bring electricity to its citizens without worrying about the price of importing oil, coal and electricity from other countries. This also allows for greater energy security and gives Morocco a better stance on the international stage. In addition, the devotion to renewable energy and solar power in Morocco has shown the world that it is dedicated to the U.N.’s seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Morocco is not only helping its poorest people and paving the way for greater rural development, but it is also doing so in a remarkably sustainable way that is largely unprecedented on an international scale.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Zambia's Growing Energy Sector
Zambia is improving livelihoods, especially for those residing in rural areas without electricity access, through investing in its growing green energy sector. About 70 percent of the population—more than eight million Zambians—lack electricity and could benefit from clean, affordable and reliable power. Electricity access in rural regions is less than 10 percent. Zambia is changing that statistic by focusing on providing affordable and widespread green energy to the nation. Zambia is currently one of the top 10 producers in hydroelectric power, but it is currently focused on diversifying into underappreciated areas within Zambia’s growing energy sector.

Green Energy Developments

The Power Africa: Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia (BGFZ) emerged in 2016. Sweden funded the BGFZ and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) manages it. The aim is to provide affordable and clean sustainable energy to Zambia. The program works with the government to provide power for rural areas. As of 2019, more than 100,000 households, reaching 500,000 Zambians, received power as part of the program.

The program’s goal is to reach 1.6 million Zambians by 2021. BGFZ and its partners have created more than 1,100 jobs, about 2.3 MW of energy and affected more than 1,400 businesses. According to a study on the BGFZ program’s impact on the population, more than 25 percent have opened new income streams thanks to electricity access. Also, 87 percent of people in the survey stated that they spend less on lighting and power. Participants in the study mentioned that not having to use candles also alleviates potential fire hazards and helps them feel more at ease with children at home.

Enel Green Power, a renewable energy business, will build Zambia’s first power plant as part of the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program. It will be a 34 MW solar PV plant in Ngonye and is part of Zambia’s goal of diversifying its energy sector and providing power to the entire population. Zambia’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) carries out the project. Enel owns about 80 percent of the project and the IDC owns 20 percent.

“With the connection to the grid of Ngonye in Zambia, we are reconfirming our commitment to helping the country leverage on its vast wealth of renewable resources, which poses a great opportunity for growth,” said Antonio Cammisecra, Head of Enel Green Power. The facility should generate 70 GWh once complete.

Widespread Impact of Power

Electricity provides much more than a simple electric light in a room. It enables schools to use the technology they could not utilize without power. Computers, calculators and lights to illuminate a chalkboard are all benefits that appear simple but are important in educating and developing a country. Educating a country is yet another way of reducing poverty, yet that is hard to achieve without electricity, whether from green sources or traditional sources.

Health care is another area that Zambia’s growing energy sector impacts. Equipment, such as x-ray machines, requires some sort of power and providing electricity to almost 70 percent would affect more than 8 million Zambians. An important and basic aspect of developing a country is electricity access, as an economy cannot thrive without a widespread and reliable power source. Zambia understands that developing the energy sector, particularly green technology, is the first step to not only sustainable energy and economic development, but also the health of its people.

Outlook

Zambia’s growing energy sector is improving thanks to involvement from businesses, the government and the World Bank. One of Zambia’s largest food suppliers is constructing an approximately $42 million 50 MW solar farm, demonstrating that major businesses are also transitioning into affordable and sustainable energy sources. Zambia’s impact on providing electricity to its people has only begun in recent years, yet its progress shows promise in helping to develop the economy through increasing electricity access.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Honnald Foundation

In today’s fast-paced and technological world, it is easy to take everyday things for granted. Millions of people have lights, electric stoves and numerous electronic devices at their fingertips. However, there are an estimated 1.1 billion people across the globe who do not have access to basic electricity. These areas often lack development from big companies that would create job opportunities. Thus, it is no surprise that many areas that suffer from “energy poverty” are among the same areas that hold the highest rates of international poverty. Rock climber Alex Honnold identified the intersection between electricity and poverty and decided to take action. In 2012, Honnold created his own nonprofit organization called the Honnold Foundation.

Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold is known for his role in the documentary “Free Solo.” The adventure climber rocketed to fame when he became the first climber to ascend Yosemite’s 3,000 foot El Capitan wall without the assistance of any ropes, harnesses or other protective equipment. He has gained a large international following from his successful climbs of the biggest cliffs in the world. But, Honnold is equally well known for the strong work ethic and humble attitude he carries with him.

As Honnold began to gain attention for his impressive climbing skills, he had many opportunities to join climbing trips to various remote places around the world that were sponsored by different brands. In preparation for his travels, Honnold would often read books about each of his destinations to learn more about the area. He soon began to develop an understanding of climate change issues, social justice efforts and environmental problems. Honnold also witnessed them first-hand in many of his expeditions. On an eye-opening trip to Chad in 2010, Honnold recalled driving through entire villages without access to power.

Developing the Honnold Foundation

Honnold continued to educate himself on these issues. In 2012, Honnold and his longtime climbing partner Maury Birdwell dreamed up the Honnold Foundation. Its vision is to fight poverty, improve lives and reduce environmental impact via solar projects around the world. Poverty and global warming were the two most concerning issues that came up repeatedly in Honnold’s research and experiences. Honnold and Birdwell found that both issues could be resolved by the promotion of solar energy.

They developed the idea on the way home from a climbing trip. With Yosemite as their office, the founders of the Honnold Foundation tweaked and honed their ideas into a cohesive and forward-thinking organization. Honnold believes that access to electricity is essential to improving people’s lives. Since its inception, Honnold has consistently given a third of his income to the Honnold Foundation each year.

Honnold Foundation’s Focus

The Honnold Foundation is a nonprofit public charity that provides funding for solar power initiatives that tackle global energy inequality through environmentally sound means. In recent years, the organization has honed in on four main nonprofit organizations: SolarAid, GRID Alternatives, The Solar Energy Foundation and Northern Navajo Solar Entrepreneurs. Each organization focuses on a unique element of solar expansion and share the unifying mission of transitioning people to solar energy.

There have been several projects to date. One project furthers the efforts of SolarAid to replace polluting and dangerous kerosene lamps in Malawi and Zambia with solar ones. Another is advancing pay-as-you-go financing for solar energy systems in Ethiopia through the Solar Energy Foundation. It installs affordable solar power through GRID Alternatives to off-grid low-income communities. Furthermore, it promotes solar education in community hubs and supports long-term entrepreneurship programs to increase solar energy in Navajo communities.

Solar power is cheap, reliable, safe and variable in its applications. When asked about the great work he is doing with solar energy through his foundation, Honnold often brings the attention back to what this energy is doing for the people in these communities. Many organizations exist to support the basic necessities of food, shelter and water, which are all essential components. Without electricity, there can be no sewing machines or rice mills. Job opportunities are scarce.

Solar electricity gives people access to education, better living conditions and economic advantages. Solar power helps reduce environmental impact worldwide, but especially in regions that have never had electricity in any form. It can’t be expected for those living in poverty to care about sustaining the environment when their own basic needs aren’t being met. The Honnold Foundation aims to shed light on both the planet and poverty.

GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Gambia’s Solar Park
In 2019, the Gambian government announced that it would construct a solar park, the first 150 MWH utility-scale park in the nation. Apart from the government’s greater initiative to improve the Gambia’s energy reliability and affordability, the government plans to launch the solar park in two phases: an 80 MWH unit set for 2021 and a 70 MWH unit set for 2025.

The Background

Prior to national elections in 2016, the Gambian government struggled with a decreasing GDP, poor macroeconomic performance and high liabilities from the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) and other state-owned enterprises. As cited in a 2018 World Bank report, the governing bodies of SOE’s such as NAWEC were highly inefficient and caused internal dysfunction under President Yahya Jammeh’s leadership. The government’s inconsistent budget support to NAWEC resulted in a “fiscal drain on public resources” and inadequate energy supply.

Therefore, as apart of the region’s master plan to increase energy availability to the public, the current Gambian administration will conduct a study measuring the feasibility of implementing a 150 MWH solar park. The park will connect to a substation in Soma, The Gambia, which is a grid infrastructure that should increase electricity access in the nation by 60 percent. The feasibility study will have three primary objectives:

  1. To select the land for the solar park.
  2. To finalize solar power station details.
  3. To evaluate the feasibility of creating a National Dispatch Center.

The Process

In selecting land for The Gambia’s solar park, consultants will choose a land size of around 250 Hectares within a 20 km perimeter from the Soma substation. They will conduct studies that measure the potential constraint to connect the substation to the park. Once consultants choose an ideal site, they will proceed to finalize aspects of the power station. The power station will produce shifts in solar energy for two to three hours toward the peak of each evening. Through a detailed study, consultants will need to confirm the phases required for the installation of the park and proceed to undertake a diagnosis for the creation of a dispatch center. Through a diagnosis, consultants will be able to construct an “evaluation of required investments in capacity building (research, training), and modernization of the network (hardware equipment, software, smart grid technology, etc.).”

The government plans to construct the park not only to provide further electricity to The Gambia’s citizens but to also reduce the electricity costs for SOEs and the government. The government plans to remove the system of auction organized with public-private partnerships (private banks, etc.) as a means to reduce the cost of electricity for SOEs and citizens.

As the first of its kind, The Gambia’s solar park will increase Gambians’ access to electricity by 25 percent. The park will serve as one of the administration’s first steps in transforming the nation into a hub for sustainable energy.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

Making Solar Power BetterSolar energy gives the old adage “make hay while the sun shines” a whole new meaning. Solar panels generate 227 gigawatts of energy world-wide. For reference, one single gigawatt can realistically power 300,000 first-world homes.

While a great option for anyone, alternative energy sources are especially important for people in poverty. In undeveloped areas, electricity is up to five times more expensive per kilowatt hour. The cost is higher due to infrastructure problems. The price of expanding the electrical grid in largely remote areas is often limiting, which encourages people to use fossil fuels instead. Kerosene, diesel and coal, the most common fuel sources, pose serious health and environmental risks.

Solar power is easier to install and is safer to use. Unlike wind and geothermal power, it is fit for use in essentially every climate that humans can inhabit. Reliable electricity allows impoverished areas to leap closer towards development. People can power cellphones, radios and televisions; refrigerate food, medicines and vaccines; turn on the lights; pump and clean drinking water; cook; irrigate crops and more.

While the safety and convenience of solar power are wonderful, its contributions to peoples’ lifestyles are what truly make the difference against poverty. Students who can study at night with the help of lightbulbs learn more and perform better in school. People with electronic devices can access the internet and its infinite resources. Refrigeration allows for food to keep longer and can help preserve medications for easier dispersal when they are needed.

Current Problems with Solar Power

For all of solar power’s benefits, there are still some glaring inefficiencies. While this renewable energy is cheaper in the long-run, upfront costs can be staggeringly high for people living in poverty. While dozens of outreach groups are working hard to provide help where it is needed most, it is still a hard technology to access.

Additionally, solar panels don’t always work at maximum efficiency. They generally use one of three types of semiconducting materials: monocrystalline, polycrystalline or thin-film. Their compositions differ, and though there are nuances to the use of each type, the options simplify to this: higher efficiency panels use the more expensive materials.

Lastly, traditional solar panels simply can’t work at night. With no radiation from the sun, there is nothing to convert into useful electricity. That means that individuals who use solar power at night must ration what they could generate during the day. Multiple days with little sunlight could also make a negative impact on overall energy stores.

Ways to Improve Solar Power

Fortunately, there are many people who continue to see the benefits of this technology and who are making solar power better.

A study released in early 2019 outlined a “material defect” in solar cells’ silicon that they named “Light Induced Degradation.” Solar cells used to have a 2 percent drop in efficiency from the first hours of use, no matter what the circumstances. Scientists identified the defect, caused by an interruption in the flow of electrons and are now working to fix it. Other researchers are seeking brand-new materials for use in solar cells, including “perovskites,” which are man-made crystalline structures.

Other scientists are striving to do the improbable: make solar panels that work in darkness. Researchers at Curtin University conceptualized a “thermal battery” made of a metal carbonate and gas storage vessel. When solar radiation stops, at night or in cloudy conditions, the gas is released from storage. It gets absorbed by the carbonate, producing more heat, which is then generated into electricity.

There are also changes on a societal level. For families that can’t afford to install their own solar panels, some communities offer alternative programs. Students can charge a battery using their school’s equipment during the school day, which is used to power lanterns when they get home.

More than 12 percent of the world still has no access to electricity. With the help of this complex technology and all of the people who are making solar power better, those without electricity can soon have a brighter tomorrow.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh—designer, disc jockey, engineer and architect—has made major strides in the fashion world. His designs have also helped bring awareness and assistance to people in need.

Who is Virgil Abloh?

Virgil Abloh was appointed Louis Vuitton’s men’s artistic director in March 2018. Prior to his appointment, Abloh was running his own clothing line called Off-White. He launched Off-White in 2013 as a follow up to his streetwear project, Pyrex Vision, which he had started at Kanye West’s design agency, DONDA. His career as a designer serves as an homage to his mother, who used to be a seamstress, despite receiving a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s in architecture.

Abloh’s Philanthropic Efforts for Solar Power

Abloh participated in the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair – Spring/Summer 2019 Edition by joining model Naomi Campbell, graphic designer Peter Saville and photographer Nick Knight in bringing awareness to the Little Sun Foundation, a program focused on the use of solar power. He designed a poster in which the main focus was a solar-powered lamp that comes with a strap so that it can be removed from its stand and worn around the neck like a torch.

This lamp is especially important in areas like sub-Saharan Africa, where electricity is not readily available. People usually light their homes with kerosene lamps, which release toxic fumes that are extremely detrimental to the environment and those around it. When kerosene lamps are replaced with solar-powered lamps, users notice improvements in their health, which also results in better school attendance for school-age children.

The Little Sun Foundation was founded by artist, Olafur Eliasson, whose goal is to provide solar energy to those communities that lack electricity. The foundation also trains youth through solar-education programs. The programs “aim to provide children with tools and knowledge that empower them to shape a sustainable future for themselves and for the planet,” the foundation’s website says.

Without proper lighting, refugee camps can seem like a scary and dangerous place to live, especially for women and children. Wearing the solar-powered lamp helps users feel more at peace about their surroundings. Not to mention, the lamps provide extra light to students who need it to perform well on their homework.

Abloh’s Philanthropic Efforts for Children of War

Abloh contributed his talents in FAMILY’s creative charity initiative to design a graphic t-shirt collection with proceeds going to War Child. War Child is an organization that provides education and a safe space for children and families who have been displaced by war. They also train victims of war to be able to provide for themselves after suffering the loss of their homes and jobs. Their services are offered in Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Jordan.

With his role at Louis Vuitton, Abloh hopes to accomplish great things, not just in the fashion industry, but in an ever-changing, diverse society.

“I want to use Louis Vuitton’s history with travel to really look at different cultures around the world to help make all our humanity visible. When creativity melds together with global issues, I believe you can bring the world together,” Abloh said.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

access to electricityA common joke in Nigeria is that the acronym NEPA, for the National Electric Power Authority, actually stands for “Never Expect Power Always.” Indeed, less than half of people in Nigeria have access to electricity, and even people who do have power frequently get it for only a few hours per day. The government has estimated that lack of access to electricity costs the economy more than $29 billion each year.

“I cannot help but wonder how many medical catastrophes have occurred in public hospitals because of ‘no light,’ how much agricultural produce has gone to waste, how many students forced to study in stuffy, hot air have failed exams, how many small businesses have foundered,” writes Booker Prize-winning Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. “What greatness have we lost, what brilliance stillborn?”

Post-Colonization and Lack of Electricity

Nigeria is not the only African nation to suffer from electricity shortages. In the last few months, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have all rationed electricity due to shortages. Difficulties with providing access to electricity are common in post-colonial countries. Colonization made countries poorer in general, due to the exploitative relationships between colonized nations and their colonizers. For instance, on the eve of its independence from Britain in 1945, India’s GDP per capita was lower than it was in 1600. This theft of resources has made it more difficult for post-colonial nations to invest in electrification. And even when colonial powers did implement electric grids, they frequently only bothered to electrify areas populated by colonists and settlers, rather than the native population, according to a 2018 study by Ute Hasenöhrl, a professor of history at the University of Innsbruck.

Finding Solutions

Luckily, there are solutions to these problems. A study by a team of researchers, led by Dr. Samuel Ayokunle Olowosejeje, at University College Cork found that switching Nigeria’s electric grid to solar energy could make it significantly easier to distribute electricity by reducing costs. In particular, the study found that switching to solar could reduce costs by up to 132 percent.

Even if resources can’t be invested in traditional electric grids, new technology provides opportunities to electrify in new ways. Prof. Hasenöhrl gives the example of an initiative by the government of Bangladesh that has provided almost four million people in rural areas with home solar panel systems. These allow people to enjoy the benefits of electricity without requiring as much investment in infrastructure.

The initiative in Bangladesh, called Solar Home Systems (SHS), has had a big impact: 12 percent of the population – more than one out of every ten people in Bangladesh – have benefited from the plan, according to an evaluation of the program by the Centre for Public Impact. Before the beginning of SHS in 2003, a common method that some people in rural Bangladesh used to light their homes was kerosene lamps, which are expensive to power and produce relatively little light in comparison to electric lighting. The Centre for Public Impact report also highlighted how the program’s engagement with existing grassroots community organizations was key to providing legitimacy to the project. The organizations’ pedigree helped overcome initial skepticism on the part of many rural residents.

Harnessing the Sun

Dr. Olowosejeje also points to solar panels for individual households, in addition to more traditional grid-based solar energy, as a potentially beneficial move in Nigeria. “[S]olar-based power generation…is the most technically feasible and cost-effective solution to the challenge of extending electricity to 80 million people [in Nigeria] who are currently without access to energy,” he writes. In addition, solar panels could even be a source of income: “Renewable technologies could also help to develop an electricity market where those producing surplus energy can sell it to those who have a shortfall.”

The damage wrought by colonialism has made it difficult for many countries to create adequate electrical grids. The recent spate of electricity rationing in several African nations is just one example of this problem. However, the good news is that solutions exist. One of them is single-home solar electricity systems. These systems can provide access to electricity, overcome the limitations of traditional power grids, and even create an additional revenue stream to help struggling families by enabling them to sell electricity to others.

– Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

Impacting Investing
Investing in the right organizations has the potential to change the world. Impact investing is a type of investment that focuses on social or environmental benefits as well as financial or capital returns. Impact investing can be done through for-profit or nonprofit organizations that are looking to improve the world. It can be done in emerging or developed markets anywhere in the world as part of a growing market that provides capital to address global issues in sectors like “sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, conservation, microfinance and affordable and accessible basic services including housing, healthcare and education,” as the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) says. The market is estimated to be at around $502 billion as of April 2019.

According to GIIN, there are four primary characteristics of impact investing:

  1. Intentionality – The intention is one of the main things that differentiates impact investing from regular investing. The intention behind impact investing must be the desire to create measurable social or environmental benefits.
  2. Use evidence and impact data in investment design – Investments must have evidence or data that indicates the investment will have social or environmental benefits.
  3. Manage impact performance – Investments must be managed toward the specific intention of the investment. This would mean having feedback loops and means of communicating performance information to ensure that the investment is working toward the intention of the investment.
  4. Contribute to the growth of the industry – Impact investors must use shared industry terms to communicate their goals, strategy and growth. They also share information so that others may learn from their experience and adjust their investments accordingly.

Examples of Impact Investments

  • The Omidyar Network – Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, and his wife Pam obtained large quantities of wealth after the company went public and wanted to do some good with it. He set up a limited liability company (LLC) to make investments in early-stage innovations that are able to generate profits. He also set up a 501(c)3, a tax-exempt nonprofit, to provide grants for public goods and assistance to disadvantaged communities as well as subsidize the production of beneficial goods. The use of both of these allows the Omidyar Network to use for-profit capital and nonprofit grants to benefit society.
  • Actiam Impact Investing – Actiam Impact Investing invested in Pro Mujer Bolivia, an organization that provides training and financial services to women in Bolivia. Janeth Villegas is one of many women who benefited from the program. Pro Mujer taught Villegas a number of skills including accounting and business management which empowered her to start her own chocolate company that she is now teaching her kids to run.
  • Salkhit Wind Farm – Impact investors invested capital in Salkhit Windfarm, the first renewable energy generator connected to the central grid in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The installation of this wind farm has reduced coal burning by 122,000 tons annually and has created over 3,000 local jobs.
  • General ElectricGeneral Electric (GE) provides impact capital through its Ecomagination Accelerator to finance energy conservation efforts. Ecomagination investments totaled $1.4 billion in 2014. “We want to inspire more companies to work together and tackle the world’s greatest resource problems,” Ecomagination’s global executive director Deb Frodl said. With this goal in mind, the company also aims to decrease reliance on fossil fuels in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • d.light – This for-profit company invests in and manufactures solar energy and distributes its products through the developing world. d.light’s mission is “To create a brighter future by making clean energy products universally available and affordable.” The focus here is on providing clean energy to the developing world which helps reduce dependence on fossil fuels and provides electricity to people who might not otherwise have it.

– Sarah Faure
Photo: Wikimedia Commons