SolarAid solar lights on course to be in every home in Africa


SolarAid, the charity distributing small portable solar lights to tackle poverty and climate change in Africa, will see sales of its solar lights exceed 320,000 by the end of March this year – beating last year’s sales by almost 600 per cent. By finding a route to mass market in Africa, it claims it is on course to emulate mobile phone companies and organisations like Coca-Cola and so making solar lanterns an everyday household item.

Only nine per cent of people in rural sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, which leaves over 90 per cent caught in a cycle of poverty, spending up to 30 per cent of their income on toxic kerosene or other flame based or lighting. SolarAid research demonstrates that solar lights will give a return on investment in as little as five weeks, thereafter freeing up valuable money for food, medicines, education and investments in business.

With clean, plentiful light, children are able to study for at least an extra hour every night, with many teachers witnessing a marked improvement in school results. In addition, a solar light will save a tonne of carbon dioxide emissions over its five year lifetime.

SolarAid’s aim is to eradicate the need for kerosene for lighting from Africa by 2020, improving the health, education and wealth of nearly 60 million African households.

Pippa Palmer, MD, SolarAid says: “Solar has a crucial role to play in the developing world where countless communities are trapped in a cycle of perpetual poverty by costly and deadly kerosene. By offering the chance to buy a clean tech alternative, SolarAid makes a life-changing difference to these communities and the children within them – a difference that could ultimately change the environmental and economic fortunes of Africa. We are filled with excitement at the prospect of achieving the hugely ambitious mission we have set ourselves: leading the world in eradicating the kerosene lantern from Africa by 2020.

SunnyMoney’s sales are explosive, but we have barely begun. To reach our goal, we’ll need a lot of support from fundraising donations, corporate support and large-scale low-interest debt financing. Strong partnerships are also going to be essential to bring this extraordinary change to some of the poorest people in Africa.”

According to the World Bank’s Lighting Africa programme, SolarAid’s wholly-owned social venture SunnyMoney, took 25% of the all-Africa market share in the last six months; ahead of oil giant Total’s retail operations. The charity was founded in 2006 with profits from British solar company Solarcentury and currently operates in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi.

Their policy is not to give solar lights away. Instead it sets out to mend large-scale market failure by distributing and selling lights at an affordable price – a strategy that has proven so successful, SunnyMoney’s on-the-ground teams cannot keep up with demand. As the customers’ payments cover the cost of the actual lights, but not the large upfront cost in procuring, delivering and distributing lights into remote rural areas, this goal will be coupled with a renewed drive to raise donor funds and working capital.

SolarAid will be exhibiting at Ecobuild, at ExCeL in London, 5th-7th March at The Solar Hub, showcasing the state-of-the-art solar lamps used to light so many African homes. Its exhibition will centre on an interactive unlit space where visitors will be able to understand the darkness faced by rural communities and the power of micro-solar lights. Visit the stand to find out how you can help families and communities to access a clean, green and sustainable lighting alternative to the kerosene lamp. Alternatively visit their website: