This is a continuation of my previous article where I reflected on an article in the Economist and discussed what would have made me – a African teenager growing up in Nigeria in the late 80s smile.
Unlike the previously discussed water scarcity which seems to have found a kind of solution, the next thing that would have widened and energised my smile is constant electricity or just light especially in those days. Imagine all the things we take for granted with the availability of electricity: TV, computers, radios, washing machine, dish washers, hair dryers and so on. And now just imagine that all you wished for was light: light to read and do your homework! ; Light to enable you to spend more time with friends and loved ones and see their faces properly! As in the previous case, I had believed even as a young person who had not lived somewhere else that this could not have been too much to ask for. Yes, I know there was a time when the whole of humanity lived that way.
I do admire the resourcefulness of people who had sought solutions such as the diesel generator. However, it is the kind of resourcefulness that Nigerians are known for as a good friend of mine pointed out such as “when the roads get worse, people buy stronger cars”. These kinds of solutions have inherent problems such as creating the “haves” and the “have-nots”. In addition to the diesel generator being noisy, polluting, and unsafe, they also come with unsustainable running costs for the diesel. Sadly, this is one area that has not changed after so many years.
So what are the sustainable solutions you ask? First of all, I believe a solution ought to be found at national and local authority level rather than at the domestic level. Countries blessed with abundant supplies of natural gas, coal, and uranium should have no headache with electricity generation. This is even before we talk about renewable sources such as the abundant sunlight and rivers.
This is by no means meant to underestimate the innovations and solutions being offered by organizations such as Solar Sisters, Lighting Africa, Solar Aid and so on with the use of solar lamps and off grid solar PV panels for individual properties. They are all doing a fantastic job. However, that is just a tip of the iceberg! There is so much more in this modern world dependent on electricity. The gift of light is the bare minimum but probable a good place to start.