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Alpha Eritrean Engineers Magazine, Vol 7

   Solar light poles placed near airport streets in Asmara

Cost Effective Solar Power for Africa’s Off-grid Communities

Tewelde Stephanos started his professional life in Silicon Valley. He left Hewlett-Packard to start TFanus Enterprises in Eritrea; one of the first Internet Service Provider companies in the country. TFanus also pioneered a business culture based on the HP Way. A work environment where employees felt safe, respected and empowered along with profit sharing and company picnics were implemented early on. These key company policies were instrumental in attracting and retaining some of the best talents in the country. In 2014, he started Solar Smart Africa whose primary mission is to defeat darkness.

Current State
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), over 620 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity[1]. An estimated five people per family, which means over 120 million households, continue to live in the dark after sunset. Studies by Lighting Africa[2](Fig. 1) shows these households currently spend approximately $70 USD every year for sub-standard kerosene-based lighting. These lamps are very dim and dirty. They are also considered a serious fire hazards and major cause of respiratory health issues, especially for women and children.

At $2 USD, the kerosene lamp itself is not expensive (Fig. 1), but the kerosene is. It costs families $68 USD every single year, while at the same time draining hard currency reserves of already strained national budgets.

Transitioning to mobile phones, on a positive side, mobile phones have penetrated deep into rural Africa. The 2013 data shows 65% of households owned a mobile phone and it is expected to grow to 79% by 2020. This is a good example of how newer technologies (wireless in this case), continue to leap-frog very expensive old technologies (landline infrastructure). Such welcome developments are enabling low-income communities to rip the benefits of new technologies quickly and affordably. However, these phones use batteries and batteries do run out. Currently, households spend $15 USD every year for very inefficient ways to have their phones charged. People typically wait for someone to come to their villages or they must walk long distances to the nearest town where charging services are available.

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Alpha Eritrean Engineers Magazine, Vol 7 Reviewed by Admin on 10:06 AM Rating: 5

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