Getting power to the remotest of places —now called the last mile —is the greatest poser for governments. Power remains unaffordable to a majority of the population whose access is also limited by irregular distribution of transmission lines.

Astria Fataki has been working on implementing solar in West and Central Africa since 2013. She wants to prove that there could be technological and entrepreneurial innovations “made in Africa”.

China is taking the same path that it did previously with solar panels. While solar cells were invented by American engineer Russell Ohl, today China dominates the global solar panel market. Now China is focused on controlling the world’s production of lithium ion batteries.

At a newly constructed facility in Kenya a nonprofit called GivePower is tackling that challenge using solar power.


The desalination system, which started operating in the coastal area of Kiunga in July 2018, can create 19,800 gallons (75,000 liters) of fresh drinking water each day — enough for 25,000 people.

Aggregating commercial and industrial solar customers will be critical in sub-Saharan Africa for mitigating risk and making possible the financing of a portfolio of projects.

Production of power from sources other than traditional centralised power plants has already begun to make small inroads in Europe and the US. The technical progress being made in Africa and elsewhere particularly in the development of systems and appliances that need no grid connection could transform the way energy is used in the developed economies as well.

People talk a lot about the potential benefits of bringing electricity to some of the billion homes in the world that do not currently have it. I suspect we’re thinking about how the US and Western Europe use electricity, and we’re imagining what it would be like to live in our own worlds without those amenities.



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The good news is that off-grid solutions are getting better. Even so, last-mile customers remain difficult to reach. Even when commitment to reach last-mile customers exists, we still don’t know enough about them. Not all customers think alike.

The most important aspect for startups is to focus on the niche markets which are underserved – and there are many. For instance, household energy. Another one is community energy in terms of powering up schools, hospitals that struggle with stable energy supply.

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