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The cost of off-grid power innovations in West Africa

The cost of off-grid power innovations in West Africa

Ivory Coast

Jean Noël can now turn on his television set, because he has access to solar power.

He lives with his family in an area not hooked to the electricity grid in Yopougon,a community within Abidjan, the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire.

Noel recently had solar panels installed on his roof , allowing him to turn his lights on, have a fan and charge his phone.

At first, it worked well. When I heard about this, I said it would be great for the poorest. We were told we could use it for five years. But I couldn't benefit from it, it's very disappointing.

“Every day I see new people coming to ask me how I got electricity and how it worked. I told them and the word spread and more people came to ask me how I got electricity. That’s how my neighbour went to buy one for himself” said Noël.

It’s supplier, Lumos Global, a Dutch company, is in West Africa offering a solar system in“pay as you go”.

Patrons use prepaid cards, as already exists for mobile phones.The suppliers promised that after five years, payment ends, the customer becomes the owner of his electrical system and can use it for free.

This promise enticed Moriba Kone ,despite a 600 dollar installation price. But, disappointingly, the system stopped working after a few months.

‘‘At first, it worked well. When I heard about this, I said it would be great for the poorest. We were told we could use it for five years. But I couldn’t benefit from it, it’s very disappointing’‘, Kone lamented.

Other customers say despite some teething problems facing Lumos’ operations, it has the potential to provide huge solar energy on the sub region.

‘‘When we got here, there was no electricity. But thanks to Lumos, we have electricity ,I can help my child with his homework. Today, my son is 12th in his class whereas before because there was no electricity, he could not study. It changed my life’‘,N’dri Esther wife of Jean Noël said.

On a continent where half the population lack access to electricity ,there is hope for those living in under-served areas.

AFP

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