Africare News Release
Solar Light at Night: Africare Brings Renewable Energy
To Rural Communities in Southern Africa Through SunNight Solar
WASHINGTON, DC, April 22, 2007 – It’s six o’clock on a warm spring evening in the coastal province of Kuanza Sul, Angola. The sun has just begun to settle over the South Atlantic, reflecting rays of warm oranges and reds across its surface: a classic sunset for Kuanza Sul. For the local communities, the loss of light so early in the evening has an overwhelming effect on productivity.
During the seasons of early nightfall,“the lack of electricity and artificial light in Angola has a harmful impact on educational opportunities for children and the economic development of many rural communities,” notes Africare President Julius E. Coles. “Children have fewer chances, if any, to study at night; and entire communities are forced to cut short their daily activities. This is a reality for a large percentage of rural communities on the continent.”
According to the United Nations Department of Public Information, it was estimated in 2004 that no more than 20 percent of the population in Africa (excluding South Africa and Egypt) had direct access to electricity. That figure falls to 2 percent in rural areas.
In Kuanza Sul, a majority of rural communities need alternative sources of light during the night hours. Candles, charcoal fires, and gasoline or kerosene lamps have been the leading substitutes for electricity. Those alternate forms of illumination, however, can be expensive. And kerosene has been linked to poor indoor air quality and respiratory health risks, as well as negative effects on the environment through greenhouse gas emissions.
“The demand for affordable and dependable energy sources in these rural communities must be met with innovative renewable solutions,” noted Coles.
One of these solutions comes in the form of a flashlight. It’s durable, waterproof and … renewable. SunNight Solar, a company founded by former diplomat Mark Bent, developed the new glow-in-the-dark flashlight specifically to aid communities in Africa. Its sleek design allows the flashlight to recharge itself with exposure to the sun — and eliminates the health and environmental risks associated with lower-cost alternatives. With partial funding from the ExxonMobil Foundation, Africare and SunNight Solar are launching a project to deliver the solar-powered flashlights directly to individuals and families throughout the Kibala district of Kuanza Sul.
“Rechargeable solar flashlights are economically suited for resource-poor, rural communities such as those and in Kibala,” noted SunNight Solar President and CEO Mark Bent. “When properly used, they can last up to 20 years.”
Africare plans to distribute one flashlight to each family with a child who has advanced to third grade. School teachers and village chiefs will also be provided flashlights to help supervise their use in the communities. One flashlight — including manufacturing, shipping and administrative expenses — costs just $14.
The flashlights are expected to arrive in Kuanza Sul late April 2007. The project aims to reach over 5,000 families.
Africare has implemented emergency and development projects in Kuanza Sul province since 1991, including the restoration of public health services in Kibala district following the end of Angola’s civil war in 2002.