As of March, 2018, Igniting Africa’s solar energy program is now operational in three villages in Northwest Cameroon. These include a 10KW, a 4.8KW and a 1.2KW power station in Konene, Ilung and Adere villages. Before the advent of power in these communities, life was tough for the villages, especially the youth. With the reliable energy source, there are benefits that extend well beyond the initial business opportunity.
Entrepreneurship: The availability of reliable power has enabled local employment opportunities for the young men and women of the community. For example, in all three villages, a haircut was usually done with scissors and razor blades. Those villagers who did not like to have a haircut that way had to travel over 28 Km to the nearest town with grid electricity. Prior to the ISV micro-grid, petrol generators were used on market days for shaving but the cost and time constraints did not make things easy. Sitting for a manual haircut is not only uncomfortable but also time consuming and expensive. Today, all three villages have hair care saloons which have drastically changed the situation. This has created employment opportunities for 7 young people in these three villages. For these young Cameroonians, their lives are now more enjoyable and productive with the presence of reliable solar power in their communities.
In times past, shops would close by sundown due to the lack of electricity for lighting. The situation has completely changed since the coming of solar power. Today, shops owners operate up till 10 PM. This has led to increased sales and income for shop owners.
With lights also, most villagers stay around the market square late into the night giving a different social dynamic to village life.
Education: The solar power plants of Igniting Africa serve as practical training grounds for students of the Igniting Africa School of Christ-like Humanitarian Entrepreneurship as well as students from local universities that do not have electricity laboratories. At the power station, the students, typically drawn from poor rural communities, learn what’s most needed in their community like domestic house wiring, solar installation and maintenance, solar water pumping and irrigation, and energy entrepreneurship.
This training is a tuition free, work study program tailored to make education accessible to the rural poor. Igniting Africa’s solar stations are managed by graduates of this training program. Thus, the solar stations offer direct job opportunities to some youth.
Energy: With the availability of energy, information can now reach the village through satellite television. It is now common practice for most of the villagers to gather in shops that have satellite TV to be informed about what is happening in Cameroon and around the world.
So, the villages that were very enclaved in terms of information are now abreast with current news thanks to the presence of solar power that enables them to watch satellite TV, build social networks that reinforce the benefits of education, and support each other.