125 million families in Sub Saharan Africa - mostly smallholder farmers - have no access to electricity. It’s a tragedy and a paradox that the substitutes - kerosene for lighting and charging kiosks for mobile phones - cost more per week than the most affordable off-grid solar energy solutions. Trapped at the lowest tier of the economic pyramid, these families have few life choices or opportunities. Despite the clear necessity for progress, in the last 10 years little has been made.
The EAF 125 initiative will provide all 125 million African families with electricity by 2025. EAF 125 is a coalition of the willing - enterprises, governments and institutions - dedicated to solving a challenge that has defeated individual countries and NGOs for more than a decade.
The will to succeed, technology and funding - these things all exist in abundance. So why is it that African governments, electricity companies, solar home system companies, mini-grid companies, World Bank, UN and NGOs have individually failed to make any measurable difference?
The answers can be both subtle and complex:
Governments’ love affair with big infrastructure projects - such as national energy grids - where timelines are marked out in decades
A lack of awareness among rural families of viable alternatives to grid connections
Price points and payment models that place solar home systems (SHS) beyond the reach of the poorest families - and that’s the majority of the 125 million
Not enough imagination and no real cohesion
We know that the right combination of effective, efficient and affordable services, coupled with the right investment, can make the EAF 125 goal a reality:
Affordable tech, built in Africa. Lighting Global certified Tier 1 SHS cost just $45 in bulk and - offered on credit over a two-year repayment period - are affordable for most of the 125 million families.
Digital platforms:. Modern IT services can reach out to Sub-Saharan families, and manage their payments, cost-effectively. For instance, creating a platform for credit assessment, loan and default rate management, and targeted marketing.
Smart marketing. Leveraging the client base and trusted brands of mobile network operators, we believe we can make SHS, and all the benefits that come with it, known throughout the region.
Investment Capital. To bring SHS to 125 families by 2025, we’ll need about $2 billion of investment capital. Set against the high levels of investment in Africa currently and the returns it would generate, this is more than doable.
Harnessing Smart Africa. By listing EAF 125 as a Smart Africa Flagship Project, we can place it on the agenda of African governments, companies and investors to swiftly reach the scale needed to widely manufacture and distribute SHS at an affordable price.
Impact entrepreneurs. The project will bring together tried and tested entrepreneurs in the region with like-minded impact entrepreneurs who believe in - and understand how to execute - the vision.
Work from the ground up. Vision and pragmatism, hand in hand. The failure to solve Africa’s electricity crisis stems from a failure to see the problem as the sum of its parts. EAF 125 starts at grass roots, focusing efforts on building pragmatic local solutions that can then be replicated at scale.
EAF 125 is an agile and pragmatic response to what has remained an intractable problem. We are channeling the energy and creativity of free enterprise towards economic and social progress. We have embraced an ethical mission, most usually championed by NGOs. We bring a broad spectrum of the brightest minds into focus on the remaining challenges. We are moving fast to create sustainable solutions at a local level, with the potential to become blueprints for multi national adoption.