First assignment of group n° 103
Resources used by the team
First description of our project
First description of our project's idea
Provide a proposition of title for your project
LIGHT ON : Let’s put the light on the dark continent !
Please answer to the three expected questions:
1. What Problem do you want to solve ?
More than a century after Thomas Edison created the electric light bulb, most of the African continent is still in the dark. Exactly two thirds of Africans do not have access to electric energy.
Well, the lack of lighting remains the main concern for growth and development in a lot of rural areas. Lighting Africa is essential to ensure social and economic improvement in remote areas. In fact, lighting is one of the answers to insecurity, to improve inhabitants’ wellbeing and to the lack of attractiveness of this rich continent for investors. For instance, lighting up enables to give birth safety to a baby during the night, young people to do their homework, adults to keep their shops and activities after the nightfall. Actually, numerous business hours are loosed in productive sectors because people do not go out at nightfall because of insecurity.
Moreover, Africans generally use energy sources based on combustible materials such as charcoal, kerosene or wood. Nevertheless, they are often inefficient, expensive and dangerous for healthcare and environment. Lighting is the largest cost of energy for houses: African customers spend 10 billions to 17 billions dollars to buy kerosene for their home. So, these wastes of money and fossil fuel have to be solved to save the planet of greenhouse gas emissions and the inhabitants of non-optimum lifestyle.
Africa needs to light up its lands not as Europe, America or Asia did. They have to enter in the third industrial revolution, to learn from other countries’ history and to use all their potentialities and resources. As 60% of Africans are not linked to national electric grid, we are proposing an autonomous system to create a territorial balance between developing African cities and many other forgotten places. This should reduce the rural exodus and lower a part of the energetic dependence from some countries and help Africa to become a social and economic attractive place!
2. Why does this problem exist?
This problem is certainly linked to history. In Europe, the Enlightenment made fully aware that light is a sine qua none condition of development. We cannot just point out and judge the African governments when we have a look at the history of this continent, which is in fact “a new independent continent”. When developed countries completed their industrial revolutions, Africa was in the grip of colonization. African countries have missed steps of industrialization and now they have the opportunity to enter in this process of development without repeating the same mistakes.
But we can wonder, why does this problem of lack of street lighting still exist when decolonization finished in 1993?
There are many kinds of answers:
• Historical reasons:
o As it was explained before, the colonization of this continent was a brake for the development; Africa did not know the Industrial Revolution and did not benefit from Thomas Edison’s inventions
• Political reasons:
o There are many energy resources in Africa, nevertheless they are more exploited by foreign multinational companies, Occidental ones, Chinese ones and Russian ones.
o Inter ethnic conflicts and political vagaries imply that plan of street lighting is not the priority of governments.
o Corruption is also a huge problem for Africa development.
o As a consequence of this political context, humanitarian work remains the priority of ONGs and investors.
• Economical reasons:
o To electrify large areas of Africa implies exorbitant costs that governments cannot provide. More than the cost of installation, there is the monthly invoices that local collectivities cannot paid
o Inhabitants are not able to pay for this kind of technical systems that demands huge taxes for maintenance
o For investors, there is an insecurity to get a return on investment. In fact, we can notice that rural places are not the priority of governments and investors whereas Africa is often considered as the future continent to welcome the population growth.
o Private investors prefer put money on countries that produce petroleum or fuel whereas solar energy will deserve more attention for Africa
o Price of photovoltaic panel has increased because of a huge demand in Europe. So producers have diverted from the African market
• Technical reasons:
o There is a necessity to gather high skilled workers on a long-term project and to give technical trainings for the maintenance of the installations set in place
o The structure of housing in Africa is pretty dispersed so it’s more difficult to install a large grid for electrify all areas of this huge continent
o Africa owns a incredible energy: the sun, but because of discoveries such as geothermic, public funds have been rerouted.
3. What breakthrough are you commited to creating?
In order to face all these difficulties, we are looking for a simple and affordable solution to solve the problem of the lack of street lighting in several remote areas in Africa. We are committed to create a solar lamppost that would tackle the problems evocated before:
• To make it respectful of the environment: it will be made with recyclable materials such as old cans and it will use renewable energy
• To make it affordable for groups of people who live in rural areas. By this way, the fact that it will be made with recyclable materials that will reduce the cost of production
• To make it easier to use and to maintain. This point needed to be developed by experts but we aim to enable African people to make their own lamppost in the future by using only materials find in Africa and by proposing a simply concept. Our solar lamppost would be recharged thanks to sunlight during the day and will keep this energy to deliver it during the night. Isn’t the Dark Continent the best place in order to keep benefits of sunshine?
Several programs were put in place to implement solar energy in Africa. But our approach is unique because our aim is to create a product totally respectful of the environment and reachable for all Africans (in terms of price, of capacity to maintain and at least in capacity to produce by developing a product that will demand only materials found in the African continent). In fact, current solar panels are not completely respectful of the environment because of the using of one material – crystalline silica – that can have catastrophic ecological consequences. Moreover, the price of this technology and the complexity of such material are not compatible with people living in rural areas.
So, let’s put the light on the dark continent thanks to our affordable, designed and simple innovative lamppost!
Potential experts already identified
Please mention the potential experts (name, affiliation, likelihood to convince him/her to join the final panel)
In order to find further information about the problem and think about new solutions, we plan to study about several crucial points such as the African land settlement and technologies related to public lighting. Thus, we envisage contacting an expert of the African continent and its land settlement.
We discovered that some African countries severely lack of modern and developed means that would improve the standard of living of the population. We would like to be part of the societal development of these emerging or underdeveloped territories. And we consider that street lighting and land settlement are both important concerns linked to this development.
Furthermore, we plan to contact experts to find out which technology would be the more suitable and adjustable to our project. These specialists would be engineers specialised in lighting and street lighting
In addition, we would prefer our project to fall into a sustainable and ecological dynamic. That is why we also will call upon photovoltaic and renewable energy experts and maybe even specialists in new energies (such as phosphorescence).
We also want to involve creators’ communities “Do it yourself”. These ingenious members could help us finding a solution based on recyclable materials for instance.