Electricity remains to be a difficulty in many parts of Africa. Even where there is a access to a grid, there are problems with reliability. Many African cities run to the song of generators firing up during times of blackout and even then it is not everyone that is fortunate to have a generator, or the money for the fuel to run it. According to the IEA, World Energy Outlook 2016, sub-Saharan Africa had an urban electrification rate of 63% and a rural rate of just 19%! It is not only households that struggle when access to electricity is limited. Local businesses are in some cases impossible. Coldstores, internet cafes and even bars and restaurants are all either impossible to set up in some areas, or very challenging and costly to run.

There are many schemes and innovations that have been set up to offer renewable solutions. The Solar Sister have empowered women and households with their solar appliances, M-Kopa offer pay as you go solar solutions where people will eventually own their own solar panels, and storage solutions are getting better and better. These are just a few of the many solutions that are changing the way people live in some areas.

The storage of food is incredible important for households and small businesses like restaurants and ‘chop bars’. Many of us may take it for granted, but a fridge is such an important household asset. Now, imagine what effect this has on farmers and their produce! It has been estimated 45% of food produced perishes, but now their is a solution created by a Nigerian inventor. Solar Cold Hubs, invented by Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu increase the shelf life of perishable food from 2 days to up to 21 says and is particularly useful for fruits and vegetables.

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Solar Cold Hubs

The solar powered cold room is a modular set up, with solar panels on the roof, which store their energy high capacity batteries. The system is very quick and easy to set up. They use a flexible model that allows farmers to pay a daily flat rate fee for every crate of food that they store. The cold stores are a perfect example of how electricity empowerment for communities can completely change society. In this case, they reduce food waste, increase the income of farmers, employ women, reduce malnutrition and create a self sustaining business model, reliant only on the sun!

There are many other businesses that need access to electricity to function. From barbers shops and salons to mobile phone charging points, electricity empowers small businesses and changes local economies. This is where Off Grid Electric come in. They provide solar solutions tailored for small local businesses and the household. Their kits come with a solar panel, battery box, LED lights and a radio. Depending on the business, there are other add ons that will add value to the exiting business. A barbershop gets hair clippers, and their are also solar lanterns that can be hired out to customers. For restaurants and bars there are televisions, which can change the business completely. Customers could come into watch sport, paying a small fee and increasing turnover. They plan also to bring in solar kits to run internet cafes, health clinics and computer centres, which would be completely transformative and lessen the reliance on grid electricity in rural areas.

Health care is vital all over the world, but very difficult to apply with no electricity. During her time in Nigeria, co-creator of the Solar Suitcase Laura Stechel, found that many of the deaths in hospitals could have been prevented simply by having electricity. The Solar Suitcase started out a demonstration tool to show the usefulness of solar energy to health centres in Africa, but after great interest, they redesigned it to be more robust and set up We Care Solar a not for profit organisation to provide portable solar power to health clinics all over Africa. The aim was initially to help reduce mortality rates during birth, but the suitcase has also had tremendous success helping fight other medical issues such as cholera.

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Solar Suitcase in a clinic in Zimbabwe

Solar power is transformative. It can create business, educate children, and save lives. There is no continent on the planet that is in need of solar solutions more than Africa, and it is this continent that is potentially most equipped to build solar into the system. Africa utilises many models to empower people with innovation, and we expect innovations to continue to spread throughout the continent. If you know of any more solar innovations in Africa or you would like to be a guest blogger please get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or email, and please also share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.

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