A World Bank Group initiative will help bring light to 250 million Sub-Saharan Africans who don’t have electricity. The Lighting Africa initiative includes the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, other development organisations, local lighting suppliers and service providers, and the international marketplace.

The undertaking will use high-tech compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) powered by renewable energy sources like solar and wind power and micro gas and mechanical means like hand cranking and pedal power to illuminate homes, businesses, health centers and other sites that aren’t connected to the power grid.

The new lighting will be portable, durable, and cheaper, safer, and cleaner than lighting whose energy comes from the burning of kerosene and other fossil fuels.

The Bank-led initiative will provide support where private-sector resources would not go. It will create partnerships under which the Bank and the IFC will provide financing for both production and marketing as well as micro-financing.

The target date for reaching all 250 million recipients is 2030. The number represents half of those expected to be outside the power grid in Sub-Sahara Africa at that date.

Roughly 1.7 billion people worldwide live without electricity. The lack is most acute in Sub-Saharan Africa, where over 500 million people have no modern energy, and as low as only two percent of those living in rural areas have access to any electricity.

Among the poorest of the poor, lighting is often the most expensive item among their energy uses, typically accounting for 10-15 percent of total household income. Yet, while consuming a large share of scarce income, fuel-based lighting provides little in return. With expenditures on fuel-based lighting estimated at US$38 billion annually, the potential exists to engage the international lighting industry in this new market area, while serving consumers, bolstering local commerce, creating jobs, enhancing incomes, cleaning the air, and improving health, safety, and quality of life.

“In partnership with the private sector, IFC will help develop sustainable business models that will supply good quality lighting to the poorest of the poor in Africa,” said Lars Thunell, IFC Executive Vice President and CEO. “Our goal is to give families and small business owners’ clean, modern, and affordable alternatives to fossil fuel lamps.”

The Lighting Africa initiative will improve the lives and livelihoods of the target population by potentially extending the work day for small and medium enterprises, thus expanding production, enriching income opportunities, and improving working conditions. The Initiative will also improve health services delivery, thus reducing productivity loss due to illnesses.

Another benefit of the initiative is enhanced safety and security via outdoor lighting for personal, business, and community activities.

To foster improved education results, Lighting Africa will create conditions to expand time for student reading and studying, and improve grades and school retention rates. Meanwhile, it will also create opportunities for adult literacy and higher education programs.

“Modern lighting will mean improved air quality and safety for millions of people in Africa,” said S. Vijay Iyer, World Bank Energy Sector Manager for Africa. “It will mean longer reading hours for students and longer business hours for small shops and community services.”

“ Lighting Africa will directly contribute to the Millennium Development Goals and is a cornerstone of the World Bank’s Clean Energy and Development Investment Framework and the Africa Energy Access Scale-up Plan,” Iyer added.

The three branches of Lighting Africa’s initial phase include:

  • The launch of the Lighting Africa Development Marketplace Grant Competition for the design and delivery of innovative, low cost, high quality, and non-fossil fuel-based lighting products targeting low income consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The competition will provide up to $2.5 million in awards to the best projects.
  • Initiating market research in Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia to better understand consumer demand, behavior, and preferences. The research will also look at local supply, marketing, and distribution channels. Results of the market research will be available in January 2008.
  • Inaugurating a business-to-business web portal where manufacturers, distributors, and marketers from all over the world can partner to conduct business on-line and access the latest market information.

By linking these efforts with the World Bank’s lending operations for rural energy, IFC’s support for the private sector and the natural entrepreneurship in Africa, Lighting Africa can catalyze the rapid expansion of the availability of such services throughout Africa.

Lead sponsors of Lighting Africa include the Global Environment Facility, the Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme, Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility, the European Commission, Governments of Norway and Luxembourg, Good Energies Inc., and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership.

“GEF was there at the beginning when we financed what has become a signature part of the Lighting Africa program – Lighting the Bottom of the Pyramid,” said Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility. “We’ve also been proud to help fund many of the renewable energy programs for rural electrification in Africa that help the poorest of the poor. We remain committed to these efforts now and into the future with our development partners.”

“The rural lighting market, like many markets for low income people in developing countries, is not very well known or explored,” said Gerard Kleisterlee, President and CEO of Philips. “It is essential that governments and international organizations such as the World Bank, non-governmental organizations, and various companies get together in a network to work out the appropriate business models.”

More than 350 companies have already expressed interest in the initiative.

“The Development Marketplace competition provides a unique opportunity for local African companies to participate in the development of lighting products and services tailored to local market needs and conditions,” said Kenya Renewable Energy Association Chairman Vincent Loh.

The Development Marketplace competition element of the initiative is open to a broad range of innovators around the world, including private businesses, non-governmental organisations, universities, government entities and individuals.

The Development Marketplace, through global competitions, supports a number of alternative lighting projects*, mostly in Asia.

The deadline for submitting proposals is 2200GMT on October 31, 2007.

For more information, visit the Lighting Africa website at: http://www.lightingafrica.org

Press release provided by the World Bank Group