Recent Reports Demonstrate Solar Technology Has a Bright Future in Africa
Although Africa continues to struggle with economic growth, reliable energy availability and malnutrition rates, new studies show that solar technology has a bright potential in the continent and could provide solutions to combating these crucial problems.
This May, the Global Off-grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) and the World Bank's Lighting Global co- released their semi-annual sales and impact data report which identifies the trends, market changes and developmental impact that solar-powered portable lights and solar home systems have in markets across the world.
Based on the sales reporting of 55 GOGLA member companies, 3.77 million products were sold globally in the second half of 2016. However, when comparing the sales numbers from different global regions, African countries show a high level of demand. GOGLA's report shows 1.87 million products sold in the Sub-Saharan African region, 1.49 million in East Africa, and 330,561 in West Africa.
The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) released its 2016 annual report and has identified five high priority areas for growth and development of African nations and energy, specifically, power and lighting leads the list. According to AfDB's recent report, "More than 645 million people, the majority of them in rural areas, have no access to electricity." Solar technology can play a large role as AfDB's report explains, "Africa's energy poverty persists despite the continent’s enormous potential in renewable energy: 325 days of strong sunlight, 15 percent of the world’s hydropower potential, and good potential in wind and geothermal energy."
It is from these findings that Bridget Mbu Mbeng of the MAMF Outreach Initiative is looking to utilize solar technology in hopes to cultivate this untapped market in the continent. Earlier this year, a March 2017 study in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science of the United States of America (PNAS)explored the wind and solar electricity resources for twenty-one countries in the Eastern and Southern African Power Pools. Twenty-one African nations were identified as having greater potential for renewable electricity resources to provide sustainable power and energy.
MAMF Outreach Initiative is an agricultural cooperative hoping to harness the potential of solar technology to improve their infrastructure and production. MAMF partners with Cameroonian women to cultivate mushrooms and empower them as entrepreneurs. The mushroom crops provides both a much needed, protein rich, food source as well as economic opportunities.
With solar panel technology, MAMF farms can keep their mushroom crop in a temperature controlled environment thereby increasing production and quality year round. Bridget Mbu Mbeng, the founder of MAMF, is excited by the potential futures solar technology and agricultural cooperatives like MAMF will bring to Cameroon and beyond. She states, " By bringing solar panels to the farms, MAMF can increase production to meet the growing demand in Cameroon and across Africa. I know these women in Cameroon, their work ethic, and their lives. Solar panels will help them bring electricity and income to their families and communities."