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Solar Energy Offers Solution to Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

Approximately 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, or two-thirds of the population, are living without access to proper electricity. However, there is a possible solution. Solar energy has the power to reach rural areas and costs less than fuels like diesel or kerosene. African families could potentially cut their spending on electricity from nine percent of household income to two percent by replacing kerosene with solar energy. Zambia is taking the first steps in making the switch to solar power and eradicating poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Nkandu Luo, the higher education minister of Zambia, wants to provide clean and renewable power to rural communities to lift people out of poverty. Off-grid solar power helps improve and enhance education through access to computers and the internet.

The clean energy movement is called the Lundazi Green Village project, after the first village that will benefit from the new energy source. Egichikeni primary school in the Lundazi Green Village is the intended site for phase one of the program.

In addition to improving education, the project will improve safety, healthcare and agriculture in rural communities. This will facilitate people in escaping poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Parts of the Lundazi Green Village project include new security technology, street lighting, medical equipment and irrigation methods.

Luo’s long-term goal is sustainability. The use of solar energy addresses the specific needs of rural communities and grants them financial independence. About 300 households plus public buildings like schools and hospitals will benefit from the project. New access to electricity makes job creation and higher incomes inevitable.

Another plus? Access to solar power in sub-Saharan Africa tackles climate change. It also connects people to the global network, allowing them to increase their economic prospects.

Zambians are not the only ones attempting to solve poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Azuri Technologies, a global organization, has introduced ‘entry-level solar systems’ that give people eight hours of electricity each day. Customers pay an initial installation fee and then pay weekly or monthly through pay cards or with their phones.

Access to power encourages people to buy and use more technology, especially resources that connect them to the rest of the world via the internet. The pay-as-you-go format is successful because it allows people without bank accounts to use their phones to operate their finances.

Upfront costs of solar energy are high compared to fuels like kerosene or diesel, so some are hesitant to make the switch. However, the cost of installing off-grid power is expected to decrease by 60 percent in the next 20 years and has already fallen in cost by about 80 percent since 2010. Renewable energy could be the solution to ending poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and millions of communities around the world.

Rachel Cooper

Photo: Flickr