Africa is enjoying boom times. The continent’s growth is projected to accelerate to 4.8 percent in 2014 and 5-6 percent in 2015. While these impressive forecasts are buoying confidence in the region, there are still daily challenges facing growth. One such challenge is access to reliable and affordable energy.
The daily challenge of living without power is hard to imagine unless you experience it. In many parts of Africa, family homes are shrouded in darkness as the sun sets. Children are limited to reading by paraffin lamps, streets are dark and families cook over smoky, wood burning stoves as few families can afford costly generators.
Africa’s rise poses both opportunities and challenges for the continent. While the opportunities and challenges will vary by country and region, one thing shared by all will be the further strain on Africa’s energy infrastructure.
To help find solutions for an adequate off-grid energy supply, GE partnered with USDAF and USAID to launch the Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge. The Challenge, now in its second year, is part of the White House-led initiative to drive African growth through reliable, affordable and sustainable power. The Challenge began in Kenya and Nigeria with three winners from each country receiving $100 000 for their innovative off-grid solutions during the first year.
In 2014, the Challenge was extended to include Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania. With five countries vying for prizes, the competition saw an increased amount and variety of innovation in the entries. Across these East African countries, entrepreneurs fine-tuned their off-grid solutions, resulting in a total of 19 winners.
Jay Ireland, president and CEO of GE Africa, says that the goal of the challenge is to engage local experts and find home-grown solutions to Africa’s problems. “We bring in technology, but the people on the ground have valuable insights on what works best for Africa,” Ireland says. “They can develop innovative solutions to meet the power needs of the continent.”
Watch the below video to see the most recent winners and an inside look into Round One winners, GVE Projects and Mibawa Suppliers.