Solar Power in Kenya
Solar Power in Kenya is helping farmers in this Eastern African country sustain agriculture and save money. Solar-irrigation makes perfect sense in Kenya, considering the low rainfall and ample sunshine in the country.

Solar Project

East and Central Africa’s largest solar power plant will soon be completed in Kenya and will be producing 54.64 megawatts of electricity into the national grid. This is the first time Kenya will develop a major solar power plant to harness the abundant solar energy available in the country in order to reduce energy costs.

The objective of this project funded by the World Bank is to increase access to electricity services in underserved counties in Kenya. The solar project is intended to achieve the government’s objective under Vision 2030 that aims to transform Kenya into an industrialized middle-income country.

It is estimated that four out of five families in Africa depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, but only 4 percent of families utilize irrigation and instead rely on scarce rainfall. Switching to irrigated agriculture increases yields up to 90 percent when compared to rain-fed farms, but high diesel costs make irrigation unaffordable for smallholder farmers.

Solar-powered Water Pumps

In 2015, the USAID funded Kenya Smallholder Solar Irrigation (KSSI) project. Two solar-powered water pumps were distributed to two farmers over a three month period as a test for the project validity. The study concluded that one farmer could expect an increase in gross profit of 350 percent after paying off a 22-month loan, and the other farmer was projected to have a 235 percent increase after paying off a two-year loan.

The Co-Operative Bank Foundation is partnering with the MasterCard Foundation on a program that will attempt to distribute loans to about 2,500 Kenyan farmers over the next three years. The initiative will be rolled out through some of the bank’s 12,000 cooperatives that distribute loans to members using a group repayment approach. The Co-Operative Bank Foundation will also use the program to educate farmers about financial literacy and how to utilize technology for their own financial needs. These funds will be directed toward pump fundings.

The world’s first solar-powered water pump with a five-year warranty was launched in October 2017, in Kenya. This pump is called SF2 pump and it is capable of delivering up to one liter of water per second. It is smaller, more powerful, more robust and remotely monitored in comparison to standard water pumps. The SF2 can deliver up to a liter of water every second, and lift it up 30 feet vertically. This provides a farm with over 21,000 liters of water per day, whilst avoiding any fuel costs.

Future Plans

Kenya is prepared to spend $2.1 billion on electrification in rural areas focusing on renewable powered mini-grids. As part of the nation’s 2016-2021 strategic plan, the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) aims to install around 450 mini-grids powered by solar sources. It is estimated that about 25,000 to 30,000 solar PV products are traded annually in the Kenyan market and that at least every household has owned at least one solar PV product.

Solar Power in Kenya is being implemented at a fast rate and will continue to save farmer’s money spent on irrigation and fuel costs. The efforts to give loans to farmers to buy solar-powered irrigation pumps is a smart investment to help thousands of farmers save money.

 – Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Electricity Coverage Rising in Africa
It 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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia Increasing Electricity and Decreasing WasteIn Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, a landfill the size of 36 soccer fields is being turned into renewable energy, meeting the needs of 30 percent of the city’s electricity. The landfill, previously the only waste disposal site in Addis Ababa, made the news in 2017 due to an onsite landslide that killed 114 people. The new energy plant, known as Reppie Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia, plans to turn 80 percent of the city’s waste into energy each day.

Waste is turned into energy through incineration, a process already popular in many European countries. About 25 percent of European waste is turned into energy and there are over 100 waste-to-energy plants in both France and Germany. Strict European Union emissions standards ensure that no harmful emissions from the incineration process enter the atmosphere, standards that the Reppie project will be held to as well.

Electricity is produced directly from the burning of waste. As garbage is burned in a combustion chamber, heat is produced. The heat boils water, creating steam, which in turn produces energy in a turbine. The emissions that occur in this process are cleaned before they enter the atmosphere, making this a renewable and sustainable source of clean energy.

The Reppie facility came into development out of a partnership between the government of Ethiopia and several international partners, including Chinese and Danish companies. This partnership came together to tailor the needs of the new energy plant to sub-Saharan Africa, as opposed to the waste-to-energy plants already operating in Europe.

The Ethiopian project further protects the environment and its citizens from harmful toxins that are released into groundwater supplies and the atmosphere at landfill sites. Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that adds to the negative effects of climate change and is typically produced at landfill sites; this project will reduce methane emissions, as well as save space and generate electricity.

In addition to providing energy to three million people, the Reppie project plans to make an additional three million bricks from the waste and recover 30 million liters of water from the landfill. These materials will be additionally used to benefit the population of Addis Ababa. Furthermore, the plant will create hundreds of jobs for people who previously relied on scavenging at the waste site, a dangerous occupation.

In Ethiopia, only 27 percent of the population has access to electricity. While that number includes rural areas, in only urban areas such as Addis Ababa, the number rises to almost 92 percent. However, the Reppie plant is connected to the national grid and the introduction of waste-to-energy in Ethiopia will spread from urban areas and be able to serve rural areas as well, increasing access to electricity to all Ethiopians.

The Reppie Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia will aid in reducing poverty conditions through increasing access to electricity, creating jobs and improving the environment to the benefit of human health. The plant will additionally be a model for similar plants across the continent of Africa. Already, seven other plants are being planned. These plants together will leave a lasting positive impact on both the environment and the energy needs of people across the continent.

– Hayley Herzog

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to GuineaA West African country bordering the North Atlantic Ocean that has been called potentially one of Africa’s richest, Guinea is a mineral-rich state with a population that is among the poorest in Africa. Humanitarian aid to Guinea is an important step in improving the livelihoods of Guineans.

Situated between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, Guinea is home to about a third of the world’s bauxite reserves which have not been smelted and refined into aluminum largely owing to the political instability in the country. Chronic underdevelopment has also angered many locals who have, in desperation, disrupted operations at the country’s mines to bring attention to their plight.

According to the U.S. State Department’s Office of Investment Affairs, Guinea suffers from “persistent corruption and fiscal management.” However, the country is not only resource-rich but also filled with economic potentials in the energy and the agricultural sector.

With over four billion tons of untapped high-grade iron ore, abundant rainfall, gold and diamond reserves, off-shore oil reserves and indeterminate amounts of uranium, Guinea has many economic drivers. The country’s natural geography also makes it very hospitable to renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric dams and turbines.

In May 2015, the 240 megawatt Kaleta Dam project was built after a $526 million investment by China. Kaleta more than doubled the country’s electricity supply and encouraged the government to seek aid for more energy infrastructure, mainly in the solar and hydroelectric sector.

According to USAID, Guinea suffered heavy losses to its economical revenue and outlook in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. Many widespread preventable and treatable diseases, such as malaria, prevail in the country and infant and maternal mortality rates remain very high. Furthermore, the agricultural sector is not able to completely function to provide the much-needed source of income and revenue for the people and the government.

The success of humanitarian aid to Guinea is underlined by USAID’s work in the country. In March 2015, USAID provided more than $7 million through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to improve food security and nutrition as a means to combat poverty and hunger in Guinea.

This culminated in WFP making the largest-ever purchase of locally-produced rice, which supported the local agricultural sector and provided children with meals in hundreds of schools across the country. Furthermore, farmers were educated about the business and contracting process, including working with development partners, and were encouraged to establish relationships with banks to obtain credits and rates they could use to sustain their farms.

It has been said that Guinea’s entire population of 12 million people is at risk of malaria. Malaria control efforts and prevention policies are underway in the country, but the damage is ongoing. According to the Ministry of Health, most of the hospitalizations, consultations and deaths in Guinea are a result of malaria.

Aid organizations such as Plan International have been working for decades to provide humanitarian aid to Guinea. Plan International improves children’s access to health, education and sanitation. This is done by ensuring that sustainable, quality education is provided to all children. Children are afforded access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Furthermore, a safe environment designed to empower children is nurtured.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Guinea actively helps vulnerable people and migrants to resettle in other countries by advocating on their behalf and lending support at every step of the resettlement process, including performing medical health assessments on behalf of the resettlement countries. Funding for IOM Guinea is mainly provided by the same governments of resettlement countries, and the international community can and should support the efforts of these countries.

With more humanitarian aid to Guinea, this resource-rich country certainly carries the potential to infuse its wealth of resources into the livelihoods of all Guineans.

– Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Solar Power in the Fight Against PovertyHunger, lack of education, conflict, disease, war; these human calamities have a common factor: poverty. One word to define a worldwide phenomenon which unfortunately hits 2.8 billion people on earth, or near half of the total entire population.

So, what are the solutions to fight this burden? Investment, innovation, technology and education are all viable options. But more and more multinational companies, associations and even simple citizens are now engaged in the fight against poverty, using a very special tool: solar power. As a source of renewable energy that is good for the environment, solar power can also help people get out of poverty by giving them access to electricity.

Today, most inhabitants of developing countries rely more on kerosene than on electricity for their basic needs such as household lighting. This is not only because the cost of electricity is extremely high, as the poorest people in the world pay 40 times more for the same energy services, but also because, most of the time, the nearest outlets are located miles away from where poverty is striking.

Because of this poor resource distribution, 15 percent of the global population still lives without access to electricity, and it is this inequality that solar power is attempting to balance by giving people easier access to electricity, information and education. For example, in Bangalore in India, families using solar panels can save $100 a year, money they tend to invest in their children’s education.

According to Simon Bransfield-Garth, Azuri’s CEO, a leading company in solar power in emerging markets in Africa, “a child spends an extra [two] hours per day doing homework if he has electricity.” But giving people access to electricity, and thus to information and education, is only one advantage this form of energy has to offer developing countries.

First, using solar power requires only one natural resource: the sun. This free, nonpolluting and unlimited
generator makes solar power one of the most environmentally friendly energies in the world. Furthermore, green energy is reliable and cheaper in the long run than kerosene or generators. It is also safer and easier to preserve in case of natural disasters, as solar panels are detachable and can be put indoors.

Helping in both the fight against poverty and climate change, solar power seems to be the perfect solution for those who still don’t have access to electricity. But there is much more at stake here: every year, more than four million people are killed by indoor air pollution, more than AIDS and malaria combined. Developing clean energy is, now, a matter of life or death.

As concluded Justin Guay, associate director of Sierra Club’s International Climate Program, “Just providing a few hours of solar lighting alone improves the human condition.”

– Léa Gorius

Photo: Flickr

Solar Power in ZambiaSilicon Valley startup Fenix International has teamed up with Africa’s largest wireless carrier, MTN Group, to fuel off-grid regions with solar power in Zambia. Fenix is the latest U.S. solar firm working to bring affordable electricity to out-of-zone communities in Africa.

With almost $4 million in funding from the Swedish Embassy and USAID, MTN and Fenix are aiming to provide solar power in Zambia for more than a million people over the next three years.

Only a quarter of Zambia’s total population lives in urban districts equipped with electricity grids. The rest of the country relies primarily on primitive sources like kerosene lamps, candles and wood fires. The government has set an ambitious target of providing universal access by 2030, bringing solar power to 15 million more people. However, many of the current electricity centers are in dire need of reconstruction.

In July, a rogue baboon near tourist town Victoria Falls caused a massive blackout that left 50,000 Zambians in the dark — allegedly by tampering with high-voltage machines. It was the country’s second animal-inflicted blackout in two years.

The country’s economy has foundered under the weight of high population growth and HIV prevalence: 14 percent of the population has the disease and 60 percent live below the poverty line. Gaining access to electricity is a crucial step for Zambians to reignite their economy.

To ensure that cost does not obstruct solar access, Fenix designed ReadyPay Power, a pay-as-you-go system that has proven effective in Uganda, powering 120,000 people in the last year. Using MTN’s mobile-transaction app, customers can make micro-payments as low as $0.20 a day until they have spent enough to keep the battery system.

“The transformative relationship between MTN Mobile Money and off-grid energy has been an exceptional revelation,” Wane Ngambi, the head of mobile financial services at MTN, told African Review. “MTN Mobile Money now sits at the heart of many households, who use these simple and secure services daily to light up their lives. For us, this is all part of the mission to create mobile solutions which make a difference.”

Claire Wang

Photo: Flickr

Solar and wind energy projects have been praised as potential ways to reduce global poverty. But German start-up organization B-Energy is promoting efficient use of another form of renewable energy to improve life in the developing world.

B-Energy has supplied households in Africa with biogas balloon backpacks, digester systems and stoves to help them convert organic waste into harnessed biogas. The energy that the bags and digesters produce can serve as cooking fuel and provide people with a source of income.

Developing countries have struggled to supply stable forms of energy to many of their inhabitants. According to the World Energy Outlook, approximately 80 percent of people without electricity live in rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. With no other alternative for energy, many people rely on biogas and struggle to efficiently transport and store it.

Founded by German entrepreneur Katrin Puetz, B-Energy serves as an innovative and affordable system that offers a reliable source of energy from human and animal waste and agricultural residue. B-Energy’s method revolves around its ‘B-pack’, which is an inflatable balloon backpack that holds methane gas produced from waste in a biogas plant or digester. People without their own plant can refill their B-packs at a nearby digester.

According to the BBC, each bag comes with a metal pipe, which users can attach to a gas-cooking stove. The bags hold 1.2 cubic meters of gas—enough for about five hours of cooking—and spare households from relying on wooden fires to prepare food.

Another key aspect of B-Energy’s system is that it creates entrepreneurial opportunities. As a “social business venture,” Puetz’s start-up encourages individuals with biogas digesters to sell their biogas to households. People with B-packs can also profit from supplying their leftover gas to others. B-Energy even provides aspiring entrepreneurs with a beginner’s kit—which includes a biogas digester, B-backpacks and stoves—and professional training to help them launch their biogas business.

Since its inception in 2014, B-Energy has steadily grown, establishing franchises in Sudan and Ethiopia. Puetz refused to accept grants from global charities in order to prove that her enterprise can be self-sufficient.

Moving forward, a significant obstacle for B-Energy is to determine how to lower the cost of its system. The Inter Press Service has reported that Ethiopians have to pay approximately 12,000 birr—equivalent to $600—for a biogas plant, two backpacks and a cooking stove.

Puetz hopes to make the B-Energy systems more affordable by allowing franchises and households to pay in installments. This change would expand access to his innovative energy solution and assist countless more in need.

Sam Turken

Photo: Geographical

CyberSmart Africa

90 million children in Africa go to schools that lack electricity. CyberSmart Africa harnesses technology in Sub-Saharan African classrooms in order to educate the world’s poor.

CyberSmart Africa, founded by Jim Teicher in 2007, is a social enterprise that provides educational technology specifically designed to meet the needs of schools in developing nations. In 2016, 12,500 students will have access to this technology.

In 2006 Jim Teicher visited Senegal, a country on Africa’s West Coast, and was concerned by the unequal distribution of technology across communities. There was a discrepancy between accessibility of technology in cities and youth in schools.

This observation led to the creation of CyberSmart Africa in 2007. The technology works exclusively in classrooms that have poor physical infrastructure, including those with little or no electricity. In addition to addressing the U.N. Sustainable Development goals, this digital learning platform reaches 250 students in Africa per day. It operates on less than $1.00/student/month.

Most schools in developing nations lack electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, three out of four primary schools do not have electricity. According to the World Bank, educational technology is expensive and it is difficult to train teachers in highly technical equipment.

The CyberSmart device uses solar technology, an energy-efficient projector, an interactive whiteboard, speakers, cooling fans and a dust filtration system. Teachers can easily adapt to the simplified technology with the help of directions received through SMS mobile text as well as through video tutorials.

Michael Trucano, a World Bank Senior Education and Technology Specialist, wrote a blog post commenting on CyberSmart Africa’s initiatives. Noting that there are not enough computers for the amount of students in schools, Trucano commends this technology as it allows for an entire classroom to access information at one time, increasing student engagement.

Senegalese schools have had great successes with this technology. CyberSmart Africa has allowed for students to create videos, with the support of parents and the community and post them on the Internet. These videos are meant to bring traditional storytelling of everyday Senegalese life into a digital realm.

Some of CyberSmart Africa’s partners include USAID, Senegalese Ministry of Education, Earth Institute at Columbia University and the United Nations Development Programme.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

Solar Power in Developing CountriesNonprofit, INTASAVE-CARIBSAVE Group is seeking to improve lives globally by introducing solar power in developing countries.

While those who grew up in the United States may take electric devices such as heaters and computers for granted, many people around the world remain off-the-grid. According to INTASAVE-CARIBSAVE’s website, about 1.5 billion people worldwide currently do not have access to energy.

The organization believes that introducing solar power in developing countries will be a key strategy for reducing the negative effects of global poverty. Access to electricity translates to better health, nutrition and overall quality of life.

The vision of INTASAVE-CARIBSAVE is to help build a “world that responds to the opportunities and challenges of a changing climate and provides an equitable and sustainable future for all.” In order to achieve this goal, the organization focuses on using innovation to create solutions for problems facing communities in developing countries.

One of the most recent projects has been efforts to bring energy to rural Africa through solar power advancement. INSTASAVE’s energy division has expertise in developing Solar Nano Grids – or “SONGs” – which are designed to work efficiently and be installed easily in even the remotest of locations.

The SONGs bring clean, affordable energy, which does not burden African families with burdensome equipment. The devices do not even use cables, like the outdated and cumbersome grid model offered to rural communities.

The implications of INSTASAVE-CARIBSAVE’s efforts are vast and powerful. Not only does clean energy improve life expectancy and healthcare outcomes by bringing reliable electricity to hospitals and pollution from charcoal-burning out of homes, but it also has the potential to empower entrepreneurs in their businesses. For example, a cattle farmer with access to power can keep milk up for sale longer with the help of an electric refrigerator.

Dr. Murray Simpson is the mastermind behind this important branch of the nonprofit’s work. “It’s not energy just for energy’s sake, but actually providing positive impacts in terms of development,” Simpson said in an interview with Planet Experts. He explained that this work empowers women and helps children in terms of health and education. “It means micro-credit and environmental impacts, building impacts, and enabling micro-enterprise and entrepreneurialism across the African continent,” he said.

Jen Diamond

Sources: Intasave, Enviroliteracy , Huffingtonpost, Planet Experts
Photo: Flickr

dumsorIf you were to ask any Ghanaian, whether local or in the diaspora, what Ghana’s biggest issue is, the response would undoubtedly be dumsor, pronounced “doom-sore.” This term refers to the continuous and unpredictable electric power outages in the country.

Though dumsor has been a problem for decades, it was not until 2012 that this issue worsened. Ghana now faces regular power outages which can last for about 12 hours per day.

The reasons for the outages are unclear. It has often been claimed that part of the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) was cut by a ship’s anchor, which consequently halted the transmission of gas for electricity production. Other theories claim that the Akosombo Bui and Kpong Dam are not functioning properly because of low water causing mechanical problems with power plants. But whatever the cause, this crisis has yet to be solved.

In 2013, the World Bank Enterprise Survey on African countries, including Ghana and Nigeria, named “the ongoing rampant poor electricity supply as one of the biggest barriers to growth of the country’s economy and hindrance to many multinational investors.”

The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) was reported to have lost $100,000 in profits in 24 hours due to continuous power outages at the Tema Harbour site. Other manufacturing companies such as breweries, bakeries and clothing companies, businesses such as restaurants, salons and corporate offices, as well as important locations such as hospitals, airports and schools, are also being adversely affected.

Every working person in the country needs electricity. For the few who have generators, life is a bit more bearable. But a consequence that arises from this alternative is not only the noise that is created by these generators but the cost to maintain these devices. For those who can only afford candles, the use of this alternative can lead to fires.

The Ghanaian government, as well as the Volta River Authorities (VRA), Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCO), the Northern Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCO) and Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) have been looked to for answers. Although the president has made several promises, including a notable one that dumsor would be over by Christmas 2015, the problem still persists.

At this point, after several denials and broken promises by the Ghanaian government, it has been realized by most that the current energy crisis is not a result of inadequate installed capacity but rather a lack of financial resources to utilize the installed capacity. Ghana already owes billions of dollars in debt to electricity companies within and outside Ghana.

After four years, despite public marches, protests by local celebrities, the launch of a dumsor app and all of the promises by the government, no real progress has been made so far. Addressing this issue will tremendously help the country economically and contribute to its development.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: My Joy Online, Modern Ghana, AllAfrica