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Landmark Conference Aims to Transform Low Cost Off-grid Lighting Sector

IFC and the World Bank today began hosting the region’s Lighting Africa conference in Nairobi, Kenya as part of an effort to bridge the energy gap in Sub-Saharan Africa through off-grid lighting solutions. Lighting Africa’s objective is to transform the lives of 2.5 million people by 2012 by developing a commercially viable platform that can enable the development of low-cost off-grid lighting. It aims to reach 250 million people by 2030.
According to official estimates, Africa will have 700 million people without electricity by 2030. Lighting Africa aims at supporting the populations who do not have access to the grid and rely on kerosene and candles for their lighting needs.

More than 600 participants and 50 exhibitors are attending the second Lighting Africa conference and trade fair, which is introducing a new generation of affordable and better quality off-grid lighting products targeting low-income consumers. Quality products will allow them to realize significant cost savings, gains in productivity to raise their living standards and be less exposed health risks by moving from kerosene to modern off-grid lighting.

The gathering will take stock of the current status of the off-grid lighting sector. It will discuss current trends and the best way forward on quality issues, market development, access to finance, policy challenges and technology innovations.

This new sector received a boost from the signing of a letter of intent to form an industry association dedicated to off-grid lighting solutions. The aim of the association is to formalize the sector growth by setting quality standards and working with governments and multilateral organizations to maintain momentum for developing this market.

According to Dana Rysankova, the World Bank’s Program Manager for Lighting Africa, “Africa has moved from the periphery to the center of the off-grid lighting sector. In 2008, there were few products specifically developed for the African market. Today, there are more than 70 products from 50 manufacturers. There is today also a wide variety of goods between $25-50, and a growing number of good products under $25.

Entries to Lighting Africa’s Outstanding Products Awards demonstrate that quality products can be made available at affordable prices. The Outstanding Products Awards will recognize the best products available in Sub-Saharan African countries and the winners will be announced at a gala dinner on May 18.

Russell Sturm, Head of IFC Climate Change Advisory Services at IFC, said “Consumers are today spending an estimated $10-17 billion on fuel-based lighting products. This ties 10-30 percent of their disposable income to inefficient lighting with negative health impacts. A new generation of lighting products presented at the trade fair can help fill in the gap in a cleaner, more efficient way until electricity reaches everyone.

Keynote speakers at the conference include Zakari Ayieko, CEO Rural Electrification Authority, Kenya; Johannes Zutt, World Bank Director for Kenya; John Barorot, Chief Technical Officer, Safaricom; and Ogunlade Davidson, Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Sierra Leone. The conference will conclude on May 20.

Additional information:
News date: 18/05/2010

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