SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, is halfway through a 5-year commitment to bringing off-grid solar power to Zambia, one of the many countries that make up sub-Saharan Africa, where 70% of the people have no access to a functioning electrical grid. Those that do are often bedeviled with frequent interruptions of service and high utility bills. In the absence of reliable access to electricity, many rely on diesel generators for power but the majority live in a world that goes dark after sunset. If they have light in their homes at all, it comes from smoky candles and oil lamps that fill the air with dangerous chemicals that are harmful for humans to breath.

Now SIDA says it will expand its off-grid solar initiative to Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Mozambique and is backing the expansion with an additional $50 million in funding over the next 5 years. Carin Jämtin, director general of SIDA, says that investment is expected to unlock an additional $200 million in private investment in off-grid solar in the area.

In a press release, Jämtin says,”Electricity is a prerequisite for people to lift themselves out of poverty. By leapfrogging the national electricity grid and promoting innovative off-grid solutions, we make it easier to study after dark, charge mobile phones and computers and keep food chilled. Electricity also creates jobs by improving the conditions to run shops and other businesses.”

The cell phone has changed the way people in that part of the world live. Where once they had no access to a traditional telephone network, now they can communicate with their families and the outside world via wireless networks. That access makes it possible for people to obtain micro-loans to buy things like solar panels, refrigerators, and LED lights, which they pay for over time using online bank accounts.

Read more at CleanTechnica