Studies by organisations such as the United Nations reveal that over 1,6-billion people still don’t have access to light, of which 30% of whom live in Africa.
According to Sumesh Rahavendra, head of Marketing for DHL Express sub-Saharan Africa, using solar powered technology to provide these people with access to light is not only sustainable, but also healthy, compared to conventional fuel sources. He says that the challenge is however the development and distribution of these types of technologies.
Due to the shortage of this necessity, DHL Express has recently partnered with two “light-giving” organisations, namely Little Sun and Solar Without Borders, on a pro-bono basis, to provide much-needed solar-powered light to sub-Saharan Africa.
Little Sun is a social business that produces Little Sun lamps which are distributed worldwide by establishing sustainable trade routes, allowing off-the-grid distributors to make a profit while bringing light to local users.
Felix Hallwachs, CEO of the Little Sun project, explains that Little Sun uses the revenue from the higher on-grid sales prices of lamps to invest in the sustainable distribution of lamps in off-grid communities.
“The solar lamps are sold to local micro entrepreneurs and small business owners at a cost much lower than that for wholesalers in on-grid countries. We aim to assist these entrepreneurs set up their businesses by using market forces that generate local profits and promote sustainable livelihoods.”
He says the organisation currently runs active projects in seven African countries namely South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Senegal and Burundi.
“Together with our partners we have brought over 30 000 solar lamps to Africa by making use of a ‘trade-not-aid’ system that empowers all participants,” says Hallwachs.
DHL Express is supporting Little Sun by transporting 4,000 lamps to Ethiopia and South Africa from Germany, with the first 2 000 lamps arriving in South Africa in June this year.
He adds that working with DHL will support the start of further distribution projects and will contribute to kick-starting long-term sustainable development opportunities.
In a similar move, the courier company has also partnered with Solar Without Borders, a Belgian non-profit organisation that installs solar panels in developing countries. After executing numerous solar projects from Guatemala to Mongolia, Solar Without Borders have combined their expertise and developed the ‘Solar Kiosk’, a central solar installation for villages where 100 self-developed solar lamps can be charged.
The Solar Kiosk aims to provide poverty stricken communities with decent, affordable and environmentally-friendly lighting, says Gilles Loobuyck, the project manager in Sierra Leone.
“Once villages have been trained, the solar system and solar lamps can be produced locally. Besides providing light, Solar Without Borders aims to encourage the transfer of knowledge and create employment and stimulate entrepreneurship,” says Loobuyck.
Rahavendra says that both Little Sun and Solar Without Borders produce innovative products that they are looking to distribute across Africa.
“Incidentally, international express distribution is what we do best; thereby these partnerships are a great marriage of a product and service to benefit the communities we serve.”