Johannesburg, South Africa; Witts University
The IEEE convened a conference at the Witts University last week and Sirona was there to participate in a CSI (Community Solutions Initiative) working group that worked all week to educate and collaborate with African based NGOs on the successful work relating to the SunBlazer in Haiti. The university was symbolically appropriate as it is focused upon social justice. Nelson Mandella attended this university.
The technology for the Rural Electricity Program is simple. It is designed to be a radically affordable way to bring basic electricity to homes deprived of energy where solar power is appropriate. The business plan for the program is unique in that it is an economically viable way to bring power to the poorest people. By charging customers roughly what the household pays for Kerosene alone we can bring enough power to a home with energy efficient lighting to not only illuminate a home, but also provide the subscriber with enough energy to charge cellular phones. The product has been eagerly sought and is currently over-subscribed in Haiti, and now we are taking the fist steps to scaling in Africa.
Many exciting things are happening, and the days are filled with a lot of hard work. In Haiti we are fulfilling a USAID grant that will bring light to 747 homes by the end of next month in the St. Marc communes; and we have the funding in place for an additional 1,253 by the end of the year. We are beginning the process of in-country assembly, ironing out supply chains, and quickly moving the program into its next iteration. Today we also received notification from UNEP that we have received another grant to undertake an end-of-grid program to enroll an additional 3,000 homes in our program and create thirty new small businesses.
In Africa the working group members came from South Sudan, Cameroon and Nigeria. The CSI is eager to move forward and IEEE is committing to a ten year plan wherein 50 million people will receive electricity through this program. IEEE will donate the equipment, and Sirona is a key player working to get the program scaling.
The most memorable quote from the days we spent working in Johannesburg was the title of this blog entry: "When you are holding the tiger by the tail, don't let go!" (or else one of two things will happen: you will be mauled, or you will be left in the dust). Wise words and a worthy challenge for us as we move forward both in Haiti and beyond.