There has been a lot in the press about Akon launching a programme to provide lighting solutions to countries in Africa – Akon Lighting Africa. This is not new news, but it has, ashamedly, passed me by without giving it its due attention.
So, in summary: the main aims of the programme are to fast track the electrification of countries with dismal access to electricity. The priority for the moment is on lighting, in order to:
- help scholars and students study;
- extend the productive hours during the day to reduce the burden of (primarily) women carrying out household chores;
- promote economic development through the provision of electricity;
- improve the safety of communities through the installation of neighbourhood lighting; and
- to improve indoor air quality through reduced combustion of fuels to provide lighting.
In order to achieve the electrification targets, they will focus on the following: “100,000 street-lamps, 1,000 solar micro-generators and 200,000 household electric systems.” The initiative also aims to develop skills through training on the installation and maintenance of the systems.
The map below shows where they’ve been focusing their attention. I am quite surprised that South Africa is on the 2016 expansion plan, as, in comparison to other sub-saharan countries, the country has achieved considerable electrification of households. This can be improved upon naturally, and a shift in the energy source can from Eskom (the national utility) to distributed and independent renewables would of course be of benefit.
Much is always said about how Africa can leapfrog energy technologies and avoid the carbon intensive energy sources causing so much trouble in the North and the widespread adoption of cellphones is referenced _ad nauseum. This _programme represents the actual realisation of this goal, particularly if it can transition from a grant structure to a self sustaining market.
A reminder to all reading this: Africa is not a country. It’s massive, expansive, diverse, multicultural, international and complex. Programmes that aim for Africa need to recognise this.