Solar Powered Lamp to Shed Light in Africa

Solar Powered Lamp to Shed Light in Africa

The British inventors of a solar powered lamp promise that it will provide cheap, reliable, ecologically friendly light to millions of African homes.

The New Scientist journal reported yesterday that the Glowstar lantern produced by a British non-profit development organization called Intermediate Technology Development Group was launched commercially in July after tests in Kenya.

But at about $105 the cost of the lantern may be prohibitive. The annual gross national product per capita in sub-Saharan Africa is $510, according to World Bank figures.
A spokeswoman for ITDG, which will be selling the lantern at cost price, said the organization would be teaming up with micro-finance agencies so villagers can buy it in affordable installments.

"Obviously $100 is a lot of money but is you look at how much money they spend over time on kerosene, batteries and candles and the fact that the lantern is expected to last five years the purchasers will save money in the long term," the spokeswoman told Reuters.

Not for profit

"We are a British-based charity who are not in it to make a quick buck. We are looking to improve the lives and livelihoods of people in rural communities in the developing world by giving them access to affordable, appropriate and renewable energy options," she added.

ITDG was currently looking throughout East Africa for a company that could assemble and distribute 5,000 of the lanterns in Kenya by December.

A mechanical radio which drew plaudits for its originality and Third World potential in 1996 has found that its major market is the United States. It has failed to make inroads in Africa due to its cost.

The Glowstar uses a special microchip that constantly ensures the battery remains charged and controls how much solar energy is transferred from the solar panel.

"Existing systems don't do this effectively. As a result, performance gradually drops off and within six months the system is dead," the Glowstar's designer, Kieron Crawley, said in the New Scientist.