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Lighting strategy for West African states

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Officials from 18 Ministries of Energy met in Benin in October to continue development of an Efficient Lighting Strategy for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Our very own Charlie Miller and Andreas Adam from Osram representedGOGLA at the event.

Originally focused on the transition to efficient lighting on-grid, Charlie and Andreas worked closely with colleagues from theUNEP EnLighten team to raise the profile of off-grid lighting solutions in discussions and promote policies which would support off-grid lighting market growth. A key market to reaching the 600 million rural African’s without access to ‘on-grid’ electricity.

Charlie believes the major barriers holding growth back in West Africa include high VAT & tariffs, state-funded free or heavily subsidised distribution of off-grid lighting products (distorting the market), a lack of demand/awareness and low distribution capacity.

There were also risks that ECOWAS would seek to develop its own Minimum Energy Performancestandards outside of the framework being developed by Lighting Global, including potentially market-distorting performance targets.

The outcome of the meeting was that ECOWAS’s off-grid Minimum Performance Standards were developed in line with existing IEC and Lighting Africa standards ensuring that many products currently performing well on the market, and providing multiple benefits to customers, still meet performance standards.

The standards, still in draft form, importantly acknowledge high VAT and tariffs as a barrier, with officials explaining the difficulty they face winning support from Ministries of Finance and other parts of government for lower rates.

UNEP also committed to continue to support in this area, commissioning new research into health & safety, the economics of fuel subsidies, and the impact of off-grid lighting on jobs. UNEP also agreed to develop a ‘toolkit’ to make policymaking more evidence-based and assist officials in building support across government.

There was widespread support for public awareness campaigns from civil society which could help create demand, and for a region-wide response to e-waste management. Ambitious plans are being developed in the areas of ‘Monitoring, Verification and Enforcement’ as well as ‘Environmental Management’.

Questions remain regarding the cost, timeframe and feasibility of implementation at national level for all of these promises, however the meeting got ECOWAS one step further towards improving marketing dynamics for off grid lighting products in West Africa and improving customer choices for clean, efficient energy.

Summarising the meeting, Charlie commented: “We often talk about a potential market of hundreds of millions, but today policy barriers mean millions of customers in West Africa remain out of reach. While it takes time to build consensus around why and how to catalyse the market for off-grid lighting, GOGLA’s active involvement in this important regional policymaking process could give us a great platform to build on as we seek concrete changes in policy at national level across the West Africa region”. 

Stay tuned for further updates about our work in Senegal as we take our first steps in to West Africa