Africa’s lighting development lauded by World Bank

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The World Bank has feted several African countries for their efforts to improve access to electricity for the continent’s “energy poor,” with Kenya scooping four awards in the ‘Lighting Africa Initiative’.

Kenya won the four awards in the Lighting Africa Development Marketplace Competition, which concluded at the Lighting Africa 2008 Conference and Development Marketplace, in Accra, Ghana, the World Bank announced here Monday.

The ‘energy poor’ in Africa spend about $17 billion a year on fuel-based lighting sources, such as kerosene lamps that are costly, inefficient and provide poor-quality light, while polluting the air and posing fire hazards.

For these consumers, lighting is often the most expensive item among their energy uses, typically accounting for 10 to 15 per cent of total household income.

Yet, while consuming a large share of scarce income, fuel-based lighting provides little in return.

The winning projects from Kenya are on consumer financing schemes for solar powered lighting systems; a rent-a-light concept (Kodesha Mwangaza); a rural lighting access program; and a technology transfer/entrepreneurs’ home-lighting concept – each of which received at least US$170,000 as seed funding to develop and implement their ideas.

Kenya scooped the most awards out of 16 grants presented to finalists at the first global business conference for off-grid lighting in Africa held from 5-8 May, 2008.

The other winning countries selected by an international juror panel are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Currently, 1.7 billion people worldwide are without electricity. The World Bank said there was a potentially huge market for modern, safe and reliable lighting products that provide higher-quality light, cost-competitive with fuel-based lamps and powered by renewable energy or mechanical sources.

Modern lighting means improved air quality and safety for millions of people in Africa. It can extend the working day for small and medium enterprises, enhance safety and security, provide opportunities for adult literacy and improve delivery of health services.

The grant competition titled ‘Innovations in Off-Grid Lighting Products and Services for Africa’, rewarded project ideas on off-grid lighting solutions for Africa, including alternative distribution models, new clean lighting technology, stronger production chains and improvement of the policy environment.

Lighting Africa is a joint initiative of the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

The project aims to develop market conditions for the supply and distribution of new, non-fossil fuel lighting products such as fluorescent light bulbs and light-emitting diodes, in areas that are not connected to the electricity grid.

Lighting Africa aims to provide up to 250 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa with access to these basic energy services by the year 2030.

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