Fighting Poverty with Clean, Renewable Solar Energy: Mauritius Company to Provide 33 Million Africans Access to Cheap, Affordable Solar PV

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Photo courtesy: ToughStuff

Backed by the UN “Business Call to Action” (BCtA) initiative, Mauritius-based ToughStuff yesterday announced it will provide some 33 million Africans access to rugged, cheap and affordable solar power systems. The company is expanding across ten African countries, where it will be offering residents a solar power pack that includes durable, low-cost solar PV panels and solar battery packs, according to an AllAfrica news report.

Business Call to Action is a global United Nations Development Program (UNDP) initiative that is fighting poverty by facilitating “private sector efforts to develop inclusive business models that can have both commercial success and a positive impact on development.” BCtA is part of the UN’s broader “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative, which seeks to boost access to energy while protecting ecosystems.

Addressing Multiple Critical Problems

The benefits and links between poverty and access to clean energy technology are real and very clear. Solar PV panels and battery packs offer those who lack access to electricity a clean, renewable and affordable means of producing their own electricity. Substantial health and environmental threats are averted. Moreover, the social impact on people’s lives is minimized: it requires minimal changes to traditional lifestyles while providing access to modern communications and information networks.

Nearly half the world’s population lacks reliable access to modern energy services, according to a UNDP report. More than 20% of the global population — some 1.4 billion people — make do without access to electricity, the majority of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Threatening health, as well as the environment, they depend on wood, charcoal, animal waste, or biofuels such as kerosene for energy. Household air pollution from biomass fuel alone is expected to cause more than 1.5
million deaths a year, according to the UNDP.

Consumers who previously relied on kerosene or biomass fuel are expected to save a combined total of US$520 million on lower energy costs while reducing carbon emissions by up to 1.2 million metric tons by 2016 over the project’s life, according to BCtA.

“Companies like ToughStuff invest in communities by providing cleaner, healthier energy options through core business operations,” said Susan Chaffin, BCta program manager. “This commitment will help to boost development and improve social equity in a sustainable way that is good for the environment and good for business.“

Clean Energy Business with a Conscience

ToughStuff’s business model empowers local residents and communities in other ways. With offices in Mauritius, Kenya and Madagascar, ToughStuff has helped create thousands of business of new small business opportunities for rural entrepreneurs, according to the company. Its products are being used by over one million people in Madagascar, saving them some $5.85 million in energy costs.

“Today’s ambitious goal underlines ToughStuff’s commitment to produce quality and affordable products that will change the lives of millions of people living off-grid globally,” commented ToughStuff CEO Andrew Tanswell.

“To make this happen, and at the scale we intend, we are actively building commercial partnerships with large distributors, telecommunications companies, retailers and others with an interest in bringing energy, along with all of its benefits, to those who don’t yet have it.”

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