‘Fossil Fuel Dependency Damages Our Planet Whilst Locking Millions Into A Cycle Of Poverty’

kenya smileCreativecommons.org/Promise Tangeman

SolarAid is celebrating a major milestone: Its millionth solar light in Africa.

This not only means that over six million people are now benefitting from free renewable power, it sets the foundations for an emerging solar market that will provide access to life-changing technology for millions more.

The charity main aim is to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by the end of the decade.

The charity’s social enterprise, SunnyMoney, has grown from selling less than 1000 solar lights per month in 2010 to an average of 50,000 each month this year. This remarkable growth reflects the huge need for affordable, accessible and trusted energy solutions for the 110 million households in Africa that currently live without electricity.

Portable pico-solar lights and mobile phone chargers are proving a popular investment for families who currently burn up to 25 per cent of their income on costly, polluting kerosene, just to light their home.

“In the last year, we have worked closely with teachers who act as solar advocates to raise awareness, instil trust and create channels for solar lights to be purchased in rural villages. Once people see a neighbour’s light shining bright, demand grows,” said SolarAid CEO Steve Andrews. “We then engage local agents to stock and sell solar products”.

Shop-keeper Sally Kayoni in Bomet, Kenya now sells over 200 solar lights each month. Sally no longer sells kerosene, saying “after I started selling these [solar lights]… there was no-one asking for kerosene anymore”.

While solar agents like Sally will profit from the growth of the solar economy, customers like John Kuriuki are also benefitting. His family saves 300 Kenyan Shillings every week by switching from kerosene to solar. That’s about $180 a year – and nearly 25 per cent of their annual income.

John explains that “my kids don’t cough now; they are safe and study well… I use the savings on buying food and paying my kids school fees”.

With one million solar lights now shining in Africa, an estimated $235,000 is being saved collectively by families every day – and children are gaining three million extra hours of study time every night.

As SunnyMoney continues to grow in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania, each country’s enterprise will become financially self-sustaining and generate surplus revenues that will be recycled back into the charity. This will support SolarAid’s fundraising, enable country expansion and research, policy and advocacy work that will help accelerate this solar revolution to its ultimate goal: the eradication of the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020.

Sales of another million lights and two new country programs are planned in the coming year.

SolarAid Chairman Jeremy Leggett explained what this business based-solution means for development in Africa: “SunnyMoney’s soaring sales is by no means a job done. But it sets us on our path to proving an alternative to the fossil fuel dependency that damages our planet whilst locking millions into a cycle of poverty.

“Now SolarAid and SunnyMoney have reached this milestone of one million solar lights, company founders can see how powerful this kind of business-based aid can be. I hope they will be inspired to copy us. We hope that our business model for tackling climate change and poverty can set a precedent worldwide for a new kind of renaissance company; whose business will never compromise its social goal.”