Africa has for years been home to many of the greatest development challenges on earth, with hundreds of millions of inhabitants in remote, underserved communities without electricity from home, access to clean water or proper medical service.
With undeveloped infrastructure, a rapidly growing population and the huge consequences of Covid-19, many of these challenges are expected to stand and become even greater in the coming decades.
The need for scalable and affordable solutions has led the continent to adopt one of the most influential sectors in the world: off-grid solar power, with tens of millions of people already connected and able to enjoy electricity at home for the first time.
Private solar companies have been entering Africa and the SSA region for the past few years, prices of solar solutions are falling, and millions of others are expected to be connected in the coming years.
Having electricity at home has a tremendous impact on people’s lives. It allows families to literally escape from the darkness, with children able to learn and read after dark, and families who can sit comfortably even at night. It also allows you to charge a cell phone, and it does not have to go to the nearest kiosk to do so.
Despite its many consequences, electricity is not seen as a solution, but as an infrastructure. Over time, more home appliances will be added on top of the basic lighting and chargers, improving the quality of life of people with affordable and sustainable technologies.
In recent years, televisions have slowly penetrated the African market, reaching up to 42% of households in 2018. But as with any other infrastructure or lifestyle solution, the numbers vary considerably between cities and rural communities, and in remote towns, TVs are scarce.
In developing countries, the importance of television is huge and boasts far beyond entertainment. Television is, first and foremost, one of the most effective and popular forms of mass media in the world, enabling millions of people to keep abreast of current news.
Its importance has become even clearer in recent years in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, with hundreds of millions of people in Africa having to stay in their homes during weeks of lockdown. Those with TVs not only enjoyed entertainment (especially essential during a long period of quarantine), but also continuous, visual updates and news.
The importance of television increased even more during the pandemic, when it became an educational tool. During the exclusion, many countries broadcast educational content on state channels.
This content is designed to prevent children from missing out on valuable school days and developing a gap that will be difficult to bridge later. But even though they were a creative, smart and free solution, hundreds of millions of Afrikaans children who lived in their homes without television could not watch the broadcasts. Those kids not only lost precious school days, but they also built up gaps compared to their TV classmates.
The numbers are worrying. More than 250 million primary and secondary children in Africa are unable to learn as schools close. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, shed some light on the matter, saying: ‘The large number of children whose education has been completely disrupted for months on end is a global emergency for education. The consequences can still be felt for decades in economies and societies. “
A sunlight teaching moment
Once again, the solution for rural communities comes at the last kilometer of Africa’s most accessible source: sunlight. In recent years, various companies have distributed and sold solar-based TVs, enabling families to enjoy the device only through solar panels. With a sustainable, energy-efficient, clean solution, many families can now enjoy not only electricity and light in the home, but also a television set.
As part of Ignite Power’s major solar power operations across Africa, and with the importance of TVs becoming very clear over the past few months, we combine advanced, energy efficient technology, sustainable solar systems and inclusive financial models to offer the most underserved communities the region with access to affordable solar-powered television sets.
TVs will not solve the challenges of Africa. But it’s another step in the right direction: it provides millions of families with a news outlet and millions of children with educational resources, which slightly improves the quality of life. We may take our TV for granted, but believe me, it can change lives.
The author is an entrepreneur and investor who is a leader in sustainability-driven companies in Africa.