Africa’s solar energy sector keeps people afloat during the Corona crisis
By Yariv Cohen, Ignite CEO. Published on The New Times While the spread of the coronavirus continues, implications of the virus can be seen all over the world. The numbers of the sick and the dead, the global fear, the damage to the economy and the social distancing policy, all are already affecting most of humanity. But while the virus itself does not differentiate and affects people in developed and developing countries in the same way, the economic impact is a different story. In this context, once again, the huge gaps between people in different countries are highlighted, and as always, the weakest are those who suffer the most. Just a few weeks ago, long-term home quarantine would have seemed like a non-realistic scenario, yet in just a few weeks it became the new reality of our lives. Now, try to imagine an even more difficult and non-realistic scenario: staying in long-term home quarantine - in a home without electricity. If you live in a developed country, the scenario may sound shocking to you: Today, a wide range of technologies is particularly handy during isolation. Streaming platforms allow for endless entertainment, video-chat apps allow you to keep in touch with family and friends, and one can even enjoy online sports lessons. Imagining the quarantine without all of this sounds almost impossible. But for people in developing countries, the reality is far more difficult and complex. In recent years a small percentage of the rural communities across the continent have been connected to power by off-grid solar solutions, allowing them to enjoy electricity in their homes for the first time while paying extremely low fees. Now, the quarantine policy prevents people from working and earning a living, and even the payment of a few dollars a month becomes impossible. The hundreds of millions of people who are now required to stay in home quarantine without electricity do not dream of Netflix or Zoom. Home electricity has far more basic and significant effects, that directly affect their lives. Therefore, especially during the Corona crisis, home electricity is more important than ever, and the need for an inclusive reality, in which every human enjoys basic services, becomes even clearer.
Here are 6 reasons that show how critical home electricity is, especially due to the global crisis. Having electricity allows for keeping food and medication. Without electricity, people have no way to refrigerate anything. Thus, they are left with no other choice but to get out to one of the busiest places - the local market - to stock up on food on a daily basis. Basic food ingredients such as eggs, milk, and meat do not last without refrigeration, and in the absence of an alternative, many families are forced to venture out into the market time after time. In addition to food, many families are using different medicines that require cooling, and are forced to go out to the local clinic every day and risk getting infected. It allows families to recharge their cellphone and stay in touch with their loved ones. While hundreds of millions of people live without electricity in their homes, many of them hold a cell phone, which they charge at the nearby kiosk. Home electricity allows them to recharge the device and keep in touch with loved ones: Without electricity, the same families have to go to the busy kiosks to charge their cell phones, risking contagion. It allows families to listen to the radio and keep up with news and guidelines. For many remote communities, radio is the most effective and popular media. In the absence of electricity, families are required to go to the kiosks mentioned above if they want to listen to the radio and keep up with the news and changing guidelines. It allows children to learn remotely. Before the corona crisis, electricity at home impacted children’s education, with children living without electricity unable to read and do homework after dark. Now, with the governments’ educational systems disabled, many African countries have begun to devote dedicated radio channels to remote learning, where lessons are transmitted at different hours of the day (each hour devoted to a different age group). With no electricity, children cannot learn. It allows for better medical care in remote communities. As a result of geographical and social characteristics, a huge percentage of Africa’s population lives in rural areas, far from the big cities. Problematic infrastructure (at best) means that each trip to the city may take several hours. Therefore, many residents of these rural communities rely exclusively on remote clinics, scattered in various villages. With many of these clinics operating without electricity, the local staff can not use a refrigerator for medicine preservation, heat water or use any medical equipment. More extensive deployment of solar energy can provide the best solution to those clinics, affecting the health of hundreds of millions of people. It supports the economy towards “the day after Corona”. One day, the Corona crisis will be over and humanity will emerge from the quarantine. Then, we are likely to face another crisis, equally as serious as the one we are facing now: An economic catastrophe, which is expected to be particularly harsh and severe. Having electricity enables for economic prosperity: it helps businesses, raises agricultural crops, allows for additional working hours and more. Electricity will provide a significant boost for remote communities and will help solidify the economy in the day after the corona crisis is over.