About Seven Million People Now Using Clean Solar Lights in Africa

Close to seven million people in Africa without electricity now have access to clean lighting as a result of the joint efforts of the Lighting Africa program, and its partners.

Results just in show the program supported companies operating in the off-grid lighting market, which sold more than 600,000 lanterns in the six months to December 2012.

Cumulatively, the sales of quality-assured solar lights in 2012 grew by 120% over volumes sold in 2011.

“This continued bullish growth in sales volumes bespeaks a massive unmet need for clean lighting in rural un-electrified Africa, and represents a vast business opportunity for investors and entrepreneurs,” says Lighting Africa Program Manager Itotia Njagi.

Between 35% and 40% of people in Africa are connected to national electricity grids, the rest relying on expensive and polluting fossil fuels such as kerosene, for their lighting needs.

According to Lighting Africa’s soon-to-be published Africa Market Study, the Africa off-grid lighting market has been doubling sales of quality-assured solar lighting products every year for the last three years.

The program has developed a quality assurance framework that includes test methods and quality standards. The framework is designed to encourage truth-in-advertising and product quality while also allowing for innovation.

Over the past three years, an increasing number of companies have submitted products for testing. To date, approximately 150 products have been tested using the rigorousLighting Global Quality Test Method (LG-QTM), results showing that quality and performance of products coming to market are improving rapidly.

“This is an indication that the program’s quality guidelines and specifications are gradually gaining acceptance in the design of the new products entering the market as well as providing consumers with a wide choice across an equally wide price range,” says Mr Itotia.

As part of its market development activities, Lighting Africa undertakes a range of research studies on the technical aspects of producing high quality lights for rural Africa and product sustainability concerns, as well as market surveys to investors and distributors with pertinent market intelligence.

In 2012, the program published the findings of two studies on kerosene; the first examinedThe True Cost of Kerosene in Rural Africa while the second looked specifically at Kenya, exploring The Household Lighting Fuel Cost in Kenya.

Additionally, as part of its “market intelligence” services, the program published the findings of a five-country study on Availability of Rechargeable Batteries; Consumer Access, to inform manufacturers of availability of replacement components, and potential markets for parts and spares for modern solar lights.

On the sustainability issue, the program launched a new Eco Design Notes series. The first in this series is titled Battery Toxicity and Eco Product Design. It looks at the various battery types used in off-grid solar lights comparing the hazards each presents to human health and the environment, and making recommendations on how to minimize pollution through product design, disposal and recycling.

The second Eco Design Note examines the issue of LED Lights and Eye Safety. The program also published three Technical Briefing Notes in 2012 targeted at manufacturers.