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Lighting Africa: Promoting the Use of High Quality, Clean Electricity

June 6, 2011

  • Seventy percent of Africans are not connected to a power grid
  • Because of this, Sub-Saharan Africa spends an estimated US$10.5 billion annually on low-quality, fuel-based lighting such as kerosene and candles
  • The Lighting Africa program supports the development and distribution of safe, clean, affordable off-grid lighting to Africans not yet connected to a grid

NAIROBI, June 6, 2011—When darkness fell on the bustling market in Mai Mahiu, Kenya, in March this year, instead of packing up their goods and heading for home, most sellers, including Eunice Wanjiru, switched on their locally-purchased LED lights and kept on selling well into the night.

In Rwanda, where the average person spends 15 percent of their average income on kerosene and candles, women living with HIV/AIDS are earning up to US$13.50 per day (10 times the national average) selling and recharging LED lamps, a cleaner, safer light source. They are using the money to pay for better health care, nutrition and education for their children.

Wanjiru and the women in Rwanda are all taking advantage of the World Bank-funded Lighting Africa initiative. Since September 2007, the program has been building markets for, and promoting the use of, modern, off-grid lighting products in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“I have been able to add two more hours of trading each day thanks to the small LED lighting system that costs just US$20,” said Wanjiru, a fruit and vegetable seller.

Mainly working with the private sector to provide clean, affordable, and quality lighting to people without access to electricity, the program’s immediate target is to have 500,000 high-quality lanterns distributed by 2012. Longer term, it aims to support businesses to reach 250 million people by 2030.

“As each LED light displaces some kerosene consumption, customers save money which they can use to buy more lights or spend on other household necessities, creating a virtuous cycle of monetary savings and improved energy service,” said Dana Rysankova, a senior energy specialist in the World Bank’s Africa Energy unit, and program manager for Lighting Africa.

Creating public awareness

Building on the success of initiatives in Kenya and Ghana, Lighting Africa is now working with electrification agencies in Mali and Senegal to integrate low-cost, off-grid solutions into their rural and informal settlement electrification plans. The program is supported by the World Bank’s Africa Renewable Energy Access Program (AFREA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

In Senegal, the program will equip and train workers at a local laboratory attached to the University of Nairobi as they conduct quality testing of off-grid lighting products.

“The testing will use quick screening methodology developed under the Lighting Africa program,” said Rysankova.  “This method is the first step in identifying local products that meet the Lighting Africa standard.”

In both Senegal and Mali, public awareness campaigns replicating Kenya’s successful “Songa mbele na solar” (Move ahead with solar) campaign of 2010 will be launched. The campaign has already reached over nine million Kenyans, educating rural populations on how switching from fuel-based lighting to modern, solar lighting will provide better illumination, more productive time in their homes, extended working hours for business, reduced indoor air pollution, and increased study time.

The campaign also shares knowledge of how to distinguish sub-standard lighting products from quality devices.

“We recognize that it takes more than good products to make consumers move to clean energy, so running information campaigns is a vital part of the Lighting Africa strategy,” said Nana Nuamoah Asamoah-Manu, Country Officer for Lighting Africa in Kenya.

As well as traditional posters and billboards, road shows attended by hundreds of people employ dramatization, product demonstrations, quizzes, dance shows, and a chance to try out the solar lights.

Lighting Africa will also soon deepen its presence in Ethiopia, where in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Energy, it will build distribution channels for off-grid lighting products, provide access to finance for importers and distributors of those products, promote quality products and develop consumer awareness about alternatives to kerosene-based lighting.

In Tanzania, the Rural Electrification Agency has signed ten grant agreements with the winners of a Lighting Rural Tanzania competition held earlier this year.  The grants, of up to US$100,000 each, are being provided to innovative business models to extend affordable off-grid lighting to Tanzanian rural households and businesses.

Better lighting at a lower cost

In the past five years, the performance of lighting products has improved and prices have dropped rapidly. In 2008, products retailing above US$50 dominated the market. Today, a range of quality products is available from US$25-$50 and prices are expected to fall further.

“We used to spend a lot of money on kerosene,” said Ann Muthoni, a farmer in Kenya. “In the evening when the children were studying it emitted fumes that would fill the house. The following morning when the children woke up, they were coughing.”

According to Muthoni, a lot has changed since she got an LED lamp.

“In the evening, the children use the lamp for studying,” she said. “We don’t get any more infections. The lamp has been helpful to us.”

Lighting Africa - 2007-2010

  • In 2010, Lighting Africa Associates, whose products passed Lighting Africa quality tests, sold 134,500 products in Africa, providing more than 672,500 people with cleaner, safer, better lighting and improved energy access.
  • The program has worked with test laboratories in the United States, Germany, China, and recently Kenya, to establish low-cost testing services for off-grid lighting products. The tests allow manufacturers, distributors, NGOs and other players to make accurate performance measurements of lighting products.
  • Lighting Africa’s consumer education campaign reached 9.4 million people in Kenya. The campaign encourages populations in rural areas to switch from kerosene lighting to solar lighting, and makes consumers knowledgeable buyers.
  • In Kenya, a leading microfinance institution has started over the past six months to provide people in rural areas with loans to purchase solar portable lanterns.
  • Lighting Africa was piloted in Kenya and Ghana in 2007 and is now expanding its activities to Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania.

The bi-annual Lighting Africa Business Conference and Trade Fair is seen by the industry as the reference event in this market, facilitating business partnerships. Over 600 participants from 50 countries attended the 2010 Conference.