WASHINGTON (AFP) — The World Bank on Wednesday announced an initiative to provide modern lighting to an estimated 250 million people in sub-Saharan Africa who lack access to electricity.
The "Lighting Africa" program aims to develop new products for lighting powered by renewable or mechanical sources for people not connected to the electricity grid.
"Modern lighting will mean improved air quality and safety for millions of people in Africa," said S. Vijay Iyer, World Bank energy sector manager for Africa.
"It will mean longer reading hours for students and longer business hours for small shops. Lighting Africa will directly contribute to the Millennium Development Goals" to reduce poverty worldwide.
The World Bank said the so-called "energy poor" in Africa spend about 17 billion dollars a year on fuel-based lighting sources, such as kerosene lamps, that are "costly, inefficient, and provide poor quality light while polluting and posing fire hazards."
This means there is "a potentially huge market for modern lighting products that are safe and reliable, that provide higher-quality light, and that are cost-competitive with fuel-based lamps, and powered by renewable energy or mechanical sources," according to a Bank statement.
The initiative, which is supported by a number of donors, seeks to attract the international lighting industry, as well as local suppliers and service providers.
More than 350 companies have expressed interest in the initiative, according to the Bank.
The first phase of the program is a competition for the design and delivery of innovative, low-cost, high-quality, nonfossil lighting products. Ten to 20 winners will receive grants of up to 200,000 dollars.
The Bank also plans market research in some countries including Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia to understand consumer demand.
It has also launched a website on the program, www.lightingafrica.org.
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