Solar energy, a cheap power alternative to the vast population in sub-Saharan Africa with no access to electricity, has economically empowered the women entrepreneurs in Tanzania who work even after night falls.
In Bunambiyu, a village in the northern region of East Africa’s second largest economy, solar-powered lanterns have greatly improved the social-economic lives of the rural population.
“Solar energy has entirely changed my life. I use it at work and at home, yet it does not cost me anything. I often wake up at night to work because I need the money to support my family,” Reuters quoted Elizabeth Julius, who owns a tailoring shop.
Three years ago, Julius took a $500 bank loan and bought solar powered lanterns which she sold.
She used the proceeds to secure a bigger loan to start a barber shop, consumer goods shop and a mobile phone charging facility, all powered by solar.
Julius currently earns at least $25 per day, enabling her to adequately support her family of four and thrive in her business, Reuters reported.
She is one of the beneficiaries of Energy 4 Impact, formerly GVEP International, a United Kingdom charity organization founded in 2007 with the aim of providing access to energy to empower rural communities in East and West Africa.
The organization formed Women Integration into Renewable Energy (WIRE), a project to support 400 female solar entrepreneurs by 2020, through financial and expertise training.
They will in turn provide 360,000 people in Tanzania and Kenya with access to clean energy for cooking and lighting products.
Energy 4 Impact currently operates in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Senegal but is also considering entering Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana and Sierra Leone, according to information on its website.
The organization and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-led Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7) are some of the international initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa, aiming to provide access to clean energy to millions who lack electricity supply.
At least 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity, with most using cooking fuels like firewood, kerosene and charcoal that are air pollutants.
In East Africa, more than 350,000 people are using solar energy in their homes, which cost about $56 a year, making it more affordable than electricity, diesel or kerosene, according to statistics by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).