Chinese company brings green energy to rural Africa

A booth of Shenzhen Power-Solution Ind Co Ltd at East African Power Industry Convention in Nairobi. [Photo by Liu Hongjie/] The village of Damo in Ethiopia’s Sidama Zone is yet to be connected to a power grid. That is not however a major challenge for now. Villagers are gradually embracing green energy by replacing kerosene lamps and candles with solar lighting solutions.

This has been made possible by Shenzhen Power-Solution, a company from China’s Southeastern Guangdong province, that manufactures solar home lighting solutions. The company aims to serve the bottom of the pyramid (BoP), the people who live on less than $2 dollars a day.

Jemal Nura has been using a solar lantern for the last seven months and is impressed by the results.

Nura, whose monthly income is 3,000 birr ($104), said the lantern has saved him the 48 monthly birr ($2) he used to spend on candles and charging his mobile phone.

"I bought the lantern at 600 birr ($21) after my neighbor convinced me of its benefits and, for sure, I haven’t been disappointed. My phone is always on, because I charge it using the solar lantern," he said.

Emo Goshamo expressed her gratitude to Shenzhen Power-Solution for enabling her to access green energy at an affordable price.

She engages in subsistence farming and said the lamp has saved her from purchasing kerosene as its price continues to rise.

"My house is now clean; there is no smoke that was produced by kerosene lamp. The air is also clean; I no longer cough because of the air pollution. I’m also at peace as the fires caused by kerosene lamps are now avoidable," she said.

Festus Mutisya, a resident of the village of Mwatungo in Kenya’s Machakos County, bought a multifunctional solar lighting kit in 2016 during an exhibition in Nairobi.

"At first I doubted it, but I decided to give it a try because at the exhibition it was retailing at a discounted rate of $35 as opposed to $75 at the shop. Two years down the line, the kit has been functioning well, especially during sufficient sunlight when the battery is fully charged," he said.

Mutisya said solar energy has saved him the money he used to spend on kerosene for lighting, dry cells for his radio and on charging his mobile phone. He has channeled the savings to other needs.

"The solution has saved me $30 monthly. Solar energy is the way to go. It’s not only a clean energy but also safe, hence fewer burn and accidents," he said.

Gambian Savvy Simpson said he was grateful to the company for providing quality and affordable solar slighting products.

"My family of 12 now has access to clean energy, and the system lights four rooms. It’s a total transformation and we are very grateful," Simpson said.

Sally Hayden, from Uganda, is also enjoying access to clean energy. Sally owns a solar reading light and said her children are able to read thanks to the brighter light that does not affect their eyesight.

"The light from candles and kerosene lamps is inefficient and dim and produces noxious fumes that affect my children’s eyes. I’m grateful that the solar reading light has enabled my children to comfortably do their homework as well as study," she said.

Hayden said she is no longer worried about her children’s safety, especially when she is not in the house at night, because the lighting system is safer than kerosene lamps and candles.

According to Lumina, a social network for the global off-grid lighting community, more than 95 percent of deaths worldwide from fire and burns occur in the developing world. The mortality rate is estimated at five percent times higher in low- and middle-income populations in Africa than high-income countries in Europe.

In South Africa alone, the network reports that over 200,000 people are injured or lose property each year due to kerosene-related fires. Additionally, 79,750 young children unintentionally ingest kerosene.

Li Xia, Shenzhen Power-Solution founder, said her company is committed to enabling BoPs in Africa to access clean energy.

"Our motivation is not making money – we want to impact the lives of the BoPs with access to affordable solar products. That’s why I travel to the villages where we supply our products to get feedback from clients," she said.

According to United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, nearly 600 million, or 48 percent, of Africa’s population still lack access to electricity, with the majority living in rural areas.

In order to effectively serve the African market, Li said plans are underway to establish a factory in Rwanda to manufacture solar home lighting systems. They also plan to set up after-sales services for customers in all their markets.

"We plan to expand our offerings to clean cooking stoves, among other solar solutions in the future," Li said, identifying Ethiopia, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo as the company’s biggest markets.

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