We were delighted to get invited by Practical Action, a charity organisation that uses technology to challenge poverty in developing countries, to attend a ministerial event in London with Alan Duncan, Minister of State for International Development. The main item on the agenda will be to discuss how a company like Philips can work with an NGO and bring energy access and services to the developing world. This event coincides with the start of the "2012 UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All" initiative which aims to support a movement for change on energy access.
I look forward to discussing some of the great projects that my Philips colleagues like Nick Kelso have worked on thus far in Africa. Projects that have provided solar lighting solutions to areas void of electricity, allowing people to read, write, interact and play sport in the evening.
We've found that up to 30% of an African families budget can go on generating light through kerosene and with ever increasing oil prices, this is not sustainable. In the Netherlands, the Dutch government initiated the ‘Sustainable Energy Solutions for Africa’ (SESA), which aims to provide 10 million people with affordable, sustainable energy services across 10 sub-Saharan African countries by 2015. It would be great to take a leaf from their book.
Philips have worked with some great ambassadors like Ruud Gullit (a personal hero of mine), Deborah Gravenstijn, Olympic judo champion and Lornah Kiplogat, world champion runner, who all show a real passion for improving the lives of African people.
Soon we hope to hear of the first results of our project with the Independent Development Trust which will show the effects of a new generation of solar powered LED road and area lighting in two rural off-grid communities in South Africa. This will help us understand the effects of evening time lighting on aspects of rural community life such as safety, education, productivity and general well-being.
From a personal point of view, I've always wanted to be involved in such projects which transform communities. The benefits to a community are endless: increased productivity, job creation, evening education and sport, improved road safety, stimulation of tourism, general improvement to one's quality of life. It's great to be a part of new developments that have the potential to transform life in the developing world, offering significant social & economical benefits.