Great to see President Obama taking the time to look at some of the pioneering solar solutions which have been developed to serve markets in Africa during his visit to Kenya. If you’ve not seen it already, you can click the photo below to see him taking a look at a new low cost solar light, which has been designed to retail at about 5 US dollars – helping make solar more affordable and also a pay as you go home system which enables people to buy it in daily installments of around 40 US cents over a 12 month period.
The small light, the A1, being launched by dlight, just like their S2 light, of which SunnyMoney has sold around 1.5 million units in rural areas, is designed to light for 4 to 5 hours each night – but it actually lights up all night, with the light gradually dimming over time. Anyone who has spent a night in a rural, off grid, house in Africa (of which there are over 100 million) will know how useful small lights like this are. I won’t list all the uses light brings…but I will give a small example… Think about times when you wake up in the middle of the night and need to go the bathroom or go to soothe a small baby. Now think about doing that with a blindfold on – that’s hard, right? Well, when the moon is not out, in the absence of any street lights, the darkness in rural Africa is startling and it really can be a bit like wearing a blindfold. Without a small solar light, you either make do in the darkness, or fiddle around trying to find a match.
The second solar system Obama looks at is from Mkopa. This is a two light solar system which comes with a torch and a radio. There are quite a few pay as you go systems entering the market which really do help people overcome the finance barrier. What I do like about these systems is that they encourage companies to offer high levels of customer service as…the the companies need to make sure the end users have a positive experience and continue to both use and pay for the product.
I’ll write another blog soon about some of the key challenges facing the ‘picosolar sector’ in Africa – not least the emergence of sub-standard products which are entering the market at a low cost…but risk giving solar a bad name. For now though – thank you President Obama for ‘shedding some light’ (pun intended) on our growing sector!