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Senegalese celeb joins solar power initiative

(GIN) —  Senegalese-American hip hop artist Akon and a group of solar business partners have announced a plan to address Africa’s grave shortfall in electric power.

Speaking at a press conference in Sierra Leone, Akon said: “Music is an inspiration and as an African I am combining that inspiration with energy to reach out and touch the lives of rural people in Africa.” He said he had visited many rural communities in Africa and saw the urgent need to light up their homes and communities while the cost of solar energy is going down.

Nearly 590 million people across sub-Saharan Africa lack access to power and more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas lack access.

Akon estimated his Lighting Africa Project will cost rural people just around one dollar per week compare to the cost of kerosene or candles. Funding for the project, he said, would come from China.

Solar energy has been making major inroads into African homes over the last decade. Among the more successful is the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) plan. For example, a solar charger from Angaza Design of San Francisco “talks” with the customer’s mobile phone to authenticate a transaction. M-KOPA, a spin-off of the successful M-Pesa mobile payment network is another plan. Payment plans start at less than 50 cents a day.

Azuri Technologies, another start-up, has partnered with Akon. Their goal is to bring electricity to one million households by the end of 2014.

Azuri counts over 21,000 customers in 10 countries. M-KOPA has 30,000 customers and is looking to attract a large portion of the 15 million active M-PESA users spread throughout the continent. Angaza is on track to reach 10,000 customers in the next nine to 12 months.

Developments can be followed on Twitter at hashtag #AkonLightingAfrica. A website will go live shortly.

A Senegalese news video (in French) includes footage of children using solar energy to study after dark — www.youtube.com/watch?v=-X6BGdCfrCA.

 

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