Lighting The Dark Continent

In the 19th century, Africa was dubbed  ‘The Dark Continent’ and night-time satellite pictures of Africa show it is not a misnomer. But no one has done anything about it until now.

LEDs could be the answer to Africa’s darkness. The World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have a joint programme to develop commercial off-grid lighting markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The programme is called Lighting Africa and aims to stimulate the private sector to provide safe, affordable and modern off-grid lighting to 2.5 million people in Africa by 2012 and to 250 million people by 2030.


Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute‘s Lighting Research Centre in New York is to do the testing for Lighting Africa.


“The product testing work that the LRC will carry out is a central element of Lighting Africa’s program to help consumers identify good quality products and to prevent market spoiling in off-grid lighting markets in Sub-Saharan Africa,” says Dr Arne Jacobson, adviser in the US Department of Energy and technical lead for Lighting Africa’s quality assurance team.


Testing will be spread over the next 18 months, and is particularly aimed at solar-charged LED lighting, but also lighting systems with a range of charging systems and energy storage technologies.


If the OLPC project is anything to go by, this could result in some very innovative lighting developments.


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  1. Thanks, Chief Wizzard, for pointing that out. African electronics really needs to do more to promote itself and it’s really good to hear this sort of thing.

  2. Sad to hear testing has to be done somewhere in the USA, while we got some good facilities over here in South-Africa. Check We got an international approved optical testing lab, plus the know-how and expertise to make proper solar regulators which can survive the harsh African conditions. We have seen many subsidised overseas junk flooding the African market only to find out nobody can service/install it. If you really want to know how dark Africa is you have to be there on the ground yourselves to make a positive difference.

  3. This is more significant than people realise.
    Without light, it is very difficult to read. Having affordable electric light has a massive impact on education.

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