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Best Practices voor een duurzame toekomst
06 september 2008

Solar lamp Philips too expensive for Africa

“The solar lamp can be bought on credit, but a lot of people are scared off by the big price tag”, said Suraj Toyola, a businessman who sells the solar lamps in Ghana. Koenders believes that many more people would take part in the project if Philips could make a cheaper lamp. Koenders: “The solar lamp is a very good project, but it is beyond the financial reach of most of the countrys rural population. If the instalment payments for the lamp were the same as what a family is already spending on kerosene, I am sure that more people will take part. That is key, because sustainable light is not only eco-friendly, it is also a prerequisite for development.”

Nick Kelso of Philips Lighting Communications is acquainted with the comment of Koenders. “It is in line with our information. But this is a pilot to gather feedback from the market”, he explains. “Although the quality of the lamp is outstanding, the price is too high. We are working on it.”

Sustainable Energy Solutions Africa (SESA), which is a joint venture between Philips and the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs, aims to supply ten million Africans (chiefly in rural areas) with sustainable light before the year 2015. Each of the partners will invest three million euro. Philips is investing in the development of the solar lamp, while the ministry is subsidising a funding system that would allow poor people to buy the lamp on credit. The ministry invests in raising awareness, training small businessmen in Africa, setting up micro-credit institutions and establishing a sustainable trading system that benefits small traders most of all.

Light is a precondition for development. An estimated 500 million Africans live without electricity. For them night time means either darkness or the flickering light of a candle or kerosene lamp. As prices of oil have risen during the past few years, very few can now afford the kerosene they need. Consequently, as the sun sets, usually around 6.30-7.00pm life simply comes to a stop for hundreds of millions of people. Children do not do homework; work and other economic activities stop too. Quality of life is also affected. In these cases self-powered and solar-powered lighting solutions make a difference.

The SESA partnership was signed in July 2008. During that occasion, minister Koenders said: “Let me be quite clear, this is not something for nothing. Giving things away for free often proves unsustainable. People in rural Africa currently use kerosene and batteries. They will soon be able to buy solar lamps, paying for them in instalments with the aid of micro-credit. After one or two years, they will have paid for their sustainable lamps and the only costs they incur (minor ones) will be for maintenance.”

During its usage phase the solar lamp is a zero carbon lighting solution. During the production and logistical phases there is a small carbon footprint, but it is minute compared to the carbon footprint of conventional lighting or expanding the current electricity grid and the subsequent drain on fossil fuelled power stations. The first pilot projects in Ghana include recycling schemes. According to Philips, this is “an important environmental aspect when rolling out these new technologies and Philips is committed to pushing for local recycling schemes.”

P+ webtip: Philips SESA