The story of a group of London graduates who, apparently against the odds, have helped thousands of people in Africa access energy from the Sun. Could their idea teach power providers in the West a thing or two?
Posted on BBC | By Rachel Nuwer
Fidel Mberabagabo lives down a dirt path in a modest, hand-built mud and concrete home surrounded on either side by hazy, gently cresting green hills. Like most people in this part of Rwanda’s rural Rwamagana district, he is a farmer. Also like them, finances are strained; he never knows just how much he will make in a given month. But Mberabagabo’s life does now differ from that of many of his neighbours in one important way: he has electricity.
In the developed world, people take for granted that light bulbs will turn on with the flick of a switch; that they can access unlimited power to charge copious devices; and that their well-stocked fridges and artificially cooled and heated homes will maintain just the right temperature.
Africa will largely bypass the grid and leapfrog over Europe and North America straight into solar
But as anyone who has weathered the aftermath of a hurricane or found themselves in the midst of a major blackout will attest, if these precious amenities are taken away, life largely comes to a halt.
Yet for all our dependency on power, some 1.2 billion people around the world – 16% of the global population – do not have access to it at all.
Back in Rwanda, for example, less than 20% of the population live in homes that enjoy electricity – a fact that stymies development and reinforces poverty. It’s a huge problem that defines many of the problems we face in the 21st Century.