Ana Escalante

Lighting Africa: It’s Time for the ’Dark Continent’ to Begin to Shine!

Earth at Night“The sun has set in one of the world’s poorest nations and as the floodlights come on at G’bessi International Airport, the parking lot begins filling with children.” I read this in the news article “Kids in Guinea Study Under Airport Lamps” earlier this summer. I thought to myself that the lack of light in Guinea makes these students go to the airport to be able to study for their finals, and that sometimes they have to walk for about an hour to get to the airport. One word describes my thought process: wow.

In modern life, light plays a bigger role than we think. If we didn?t have light we would have to do everything we needed before the sun went down, thus cutting down productivity. This community in Guinea is one of many communities in sub-Saharan Africa that does not have access to electricity, and therefore they do not have light. People usually rely on inefficient and unsafe kerosene lamps to get by, or candles, or fires.

The World Bank launched an initiative this week to address this problem. The IFC (the Bank’s private sector arm) will run a program called “Lighting Africa.” Its goal is to develop market conditions for the distribution and supply of safer, greener lighting products.

These products can include fluorescent light bulbs and light-emitting diodes for use in rural and urban areas not connected to an electricity grid. Power would come from the sun, the wind and mechanical devices such as pedals,? says an article in the International Herald Tribune.

This new program of lighting Africa has many advantages. The environmental advantage comes from not burning fossil fuels. Then there’s the social advantage: businesses will be able to operate for longer hours, people will be able to have light in their homes, and students will be able to study in their homes for longer hours. As Claire Soares from The Independent says,

Lighting Africa officially launches on 4 September, when organisers will unveil a competition for the design and delivery of low-cost, green lighting products for low-income consumers in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 350 companies have already expressed an interest – from Africa-based small businesses to multinationals like Philips.
Perhaps key to the appeal, is the World Bank calculation that the so-called “energy poor” in Africa spend about $17bn each year on fuel-based lighting. “It’s a sleeping giant from a market perspective,” says the IFC’s Mr Sturm. “The poor, even the poorest of the poor, can be a profitable market.”

Well, it sounds like it’s time for the ’dark continent’ to begin to shine!