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How has solar boosted Africa’s economic activity

Stella Mbewe at her shop in Mafuta village, Chipata. Stella recently bought a PowaPack 5W solar product to light her shop and home. Her light is saving her money on disposable batteries and allows her to operate her shop efficiently during the hours of darkness. (Credit: Steve Woodward)


In the off-grid rural areas of Africa, there is an imperative need for light. What is there to do when one is faced with darkness? Well, you are forced to go to sleep, limited in your options.

Unless a business relies on a kerosene lamp or some other means of light to keep the shop operating, a business has to shut down after the sun sets at 6 o’clock.

Access to light increases the opportunity for producing, selling and buying. This creates a market, enterprises emerge and employment opportunities arise. This is the answer to unlocking additional productive hours… Valuable hours!

To put it simply: Light + Opportunity = Economic Activity

“People now see that there is a very strong correlation between economic activity and access to power… Access to electricity is the screaming need that underlies everything else.” Michael Gera, EAV

When thinking about the disproportionate amounts of time and income that is spent on securing light by other means, such as kerosene or buying batteries toward flashlights (accounting for around 10% of a family’s annual income), it reveals the inefficiency of this process. A solar light eliminates this cycle, allowing the gift of the sun to power itself. It reinvests that wasted income into their business, equipment, school fees or extra food.

Over the recent years, investors are beginning to realise the vast economic and developmental potential among the millions that are not part of the economy because of their inability to access power. Apart from a solar light directly affecting the progression of economic activity, solar enterprises have also contributed to the expansion of entrepreneurial activity within the solar market.

“Access to clean, affordable and reliable energy literally empowers entire nations to live up to their potential – improving economic well-being and uplifting communities’ quality of life.” Thomas Gottschalk, CEO, Mobisol

Samson Mtamanga, Sunny money agent showing light to customer, Kawa General shop, Kericho, Kenya

Samson Mtamanga, Sunny money agent showing light to customer, Kawa General shop, Kericho, Kenya (Credit: Corrie Wingate)

Take our very own SunnyMoney enterprise, which has supported over 600 solar agents across East Africa. Their income increased by 30% on average. SunnyMoney entrepreneurs essentially assist their community in converting to solar. These activities feed into the economy when they provide a solar light, which again, creates opportunities for businesses, drives innovation, enterprise and investment.

Hilaria Pashcal sells solar lights and clean cookstoves to her community in Tanzania. (Credit: Solar Sisters)

Solar Sister, a social enterprise that aims to support women in solar have helped 2,000 women across Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria to become entrepreneurs that sell solar lights to people in off-grid communities. With their 5-10% commission, many Solar Sister entrepreneurs have had the opportunity to create or expand their businesses.

“The huge growth in the time available for economic activity, as well as the financial savings, is already helping millions to lift themseleves from poverty and provide a much needed boost to local economies in some of the world’s poorest regions.” Charlie Miller, Head of Policy, SolarAid