AKON Lighting Africa

  • July 26, 2017

Energy is a key input in the economic growth of the nation, in other words we could saythere is relatively a close link between the availability of energy and future growth and prosperity of a nation. Power generation and energy consumption are a measure of economic development for any country as major sectors of economies depend upon the availability of energy resources. The industrial growth of a nation also relies on the availability of energy. Developing countries, usually export primary products such as food, coffee, tea, jute and ores, etc. This does not give them full value of their resources. Developed countries import these items and process them to better products and export them to developing countries at much higher rates. The significance of energy resources can’t be argued. It is universally acknowledged truth that the growth and development of a country is directly proportionate to the availability of energy resources.

The increasing global population is accentuating more stress on the energy sources worldwide. This stress subsequently is resulting in depletion of energy sources at an alarming rate. This depletion of energy sources worldwide has diverted the attention towards the renewable energy sources. Renewable energy indeed is reliable and plentiful. Renewable energy undoubtedly could be very cheap and potent once technology and infrastructure improve. Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower and tidal energy, plus biofuels that are grown and harvested without fossil fuels. Non-renewable energy, such as coal and petroleum, require costly explorations and potentially dangerous mining and drilling, and they will become more expensive as supplies dwindle and demand increases. Renewable energy produces only minute levels of carbon emissions and therefore helps combat climate change caused by fossil fuel usage.The list of advantages of renewable energy over non-renewable is endless.

In the year 2012, out of the 915 million people living in sub- Saharan Africa, approximately 730 million people in sub-Saharan Africa used the traditional cooking methods combined with the traditional fuel such as wood and dung for cooking purpose. Inhalation of the smoke and fumes produced from burning traditional fuels produces grievous and adverse effects on health.

African Scenario

Africa, a continent which has abundant natural resources, more than 645 million people don’t have the access to energy. In contrast to Africa, 13% of the world’s population just use 4% of the electricity produced. According to Miguel Ángel Varela, an official of the European Commission’s International Development and Cooperation unit (DEVCO), the demand for energy is going to hike rapidly. This makes Africa a hot destination to invest in the energy sector. According to the field researches and analysis, Africa won’t be able to meet the huge energy requirements by itself. The energy deficit hinders the economic prosperity of the country by affecting job creation, agricultural transformation and hinders the improvements in health and education. In order to accomplish the development goals, it is necessary for the African governments and leaders to think and work upon how to provide electricity, which is reliable and affordable. By doing this they’ll be not only be able to address and sort the energy crisis, but would also drive the engine of growth and prosperity. One of the major concerns is the rapidly booming population. Growing populations in many African nations are quickly depleting the continent’s natural resources. There’s a dire need of managing the resources and utilizing them efficiently to avoid the rapid depletion of resources.

African Scenario

Thirty seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa has a national electrification rate of below 50%. It subsequently leads to the negative effect on people’s lives, resulting in unwanted deaths and smothered economic growth. In the year 2012, out of the 915 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 730 million people in sub-Saharan Africa used the traditional cooking methods combined with the traditional fuel such as wood and dung for cooking purpose. Inhalation of the smoke and fumes produced from burning traditional fuels produces grievous and adverse effects on health. It results in over four million deaths per year, mainly among women and children. That is more deaths per year than from malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. Moreover, around 90 million students and 255 million patients are divested from the standard education and quality health care. Children receive education from places where there is no electricity access. The situation is even worse and horrendous in the healthcare sector. Approximately 60% of refrigerators used in health clinics in Africa have uncertain electricity supply. It leads to improper and substandard storage of vaccines and medicines, subsequently compromising with the health and lives of people.

Hang on! It doesn’t end here, the worst part of the story is that hospitals are sometimes forced to operate with no lighting or power for equipment, putting people’s lives at stake. It is a globally acknowledged fact that “children are the future of their respective nations”. In Africa, children are forced to study by candlelight. Without domestic lighting, they struggle to do their homework in the evening, which not only impacts their education in a negative aspect and hampers their ability to fulfill their potential, but it also affects their eyesight and visibility.

A seraphic blessing

With the increasing awareness about the energy crisis in Africa many initiatives have been started from across the globe to fulfill the continent’s energy requirement. One such initiative, which is transforming the life of Africans is the Akon Lighting Africa initiative launched by Solektra International. Today, more than 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity, particularly in rural areas. In far too many parts of Africa, night time economic activities are practically non-existent, safety is a concern and hospitals cannot fully function. Women cannot make productive use of their time to carry out the most basic household tasks. Children who help the women cannot study at night without proper light and complete their homework by candlelight, an additional expense for parents. Moreover, without access to electricity, over 3.5 million Africans die every year from harmful pollutants or fires in the home produced by costly and toxic solid fuels. Akon Lighting Africa has been created to respond to the African energy crises. To meet these challenges, international music star Akon, Malian entrepreneur Samba Bathily and Senegalese youth leader ThioneNiang, all co-founders of Solektra International, created the Akon Lighting Africa initiative that calls upon global leaders to “act and accelerate the electrification of Africa positively impacting lives and changing one community at a time!” The primary objective of this initiative launched in February 2014 is to develop an innovative solar-powered solution that will provide African villages with access to a clean and affordable source of electricity.

During his frequent tours abroad, Akon realized that the biggest obstacle in hosting big concerts and festivals was the lack of electricity. It was almost impossible to manage the concerts especially after dark. He found this obstacle as an opportunity to do something for his home continent, and later it became the foundation of Akon Lighting Africa.

Akon realized Africa’s potential to utilize its solar energy. This wasn’t easy, but Africa has been constantly striding, just as much of the continent when from having no phone service at all to having cell phones. The most challenging and difficult part was to bring the leaders there and make them explain what they were trying to do. Moreover, solar energy at that time was new and expensive. There weren’t much information and research available. This led to initial rejections of this module. In less than three year, a vast range of quality solar solutions, including street lamps, domestic and individual kits, have been installed in 17 African countries. This dream couldn’t be turned into reality had there not been private-public partnership model and a well-established network of partners. Subsequently, a number of households, villages, community houses, schools and health centers located in rural areas have been connected to electricity for the first time ever. Local jobs, primarily for young people, have also been created in these communities, whether for installation of equipment’s or for maintenance. Akon Lighting Africa targets rural areas because that’s where the need is greatest. “If you want to make an impact start there,” Akon says. “My thinking is if you want to build Africa, you start from the rural areas because that is the heartbeat of Africa.”

Akon Lighting Africa also aims to include African engineers and entrepreneurs in the conversation about how to install and sustain solar powered electricity systems. By encouraging the involvement of the African people, the organization is looking to instill long-term development into African communities. If looked upon from a different perspective, this is not a charity. Though Akon and the other cofounders have put in their own money into this initiative initially, but it will be a lucrative investment in the long term. This is more of a socialentrepreneurship. According to Akon “personally, I don’t think that charities in Africa really work, I think it just holds the people down longer than it should. I think the only way to build Africa is to build for-profit businesses that create opportunities and jobs for the people locally. That’s why with Akon Lighting Africa we decided to take a for-profit approach. Ultimately, it’s providing empowerment to local people so they can start developing their own economies.

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