Innovation and skills development can change Africa’s future for the better
Interview with Innovation: Africa, Uganda Country Manager.
Innovation: Africa, Uganda Country Manager shares how technological innovation and skills development can change Africa’s future for the better.
"Innovation Africa has brought light to schools and medical centers and provided access to clean water to nearly 3 million people across 10 African countries" says Sarah Gimono, Innovation: Africa, Uganda Country Manager.
In Uganda 158 Projects Completed and 636,929 People Impacted.
Solar power is the most reliable and affordable energy source available to African communities. Due to the abundance of sunlight, the price of solar energy has decreased by 89% since 2010 making it the most affordable form of energy in history. Solar solutions should be widespread across the continent, yet over 620 million people in Africa live without electricity. This is where Innovation: Africa is stepping in, specifically in terms of their engineer training, to ensure that the innovate solutions they are developing are brought to life and having tangible impact in some of the most vulnerable African communities.
Solar energy can have life-changing implications, especially when it comes to solar-powered water pumps that offer an effective and sustainable means for communities to access safe and clean water. But in order for these technologies to be implemented, sustainable development through technological innovation and skills development is a necessary first step.
1. Briefly tell me about Innovation: Africa? What exactly do you do?
Innovation: Africa is a non-profit organisation with a mission to bring solar, water, and agricultural technologies to rural African villages. Since our establishment in 2008, Innovation: Africa has completed over 700 projects, providing solar energy and light to schools and medical centers and crucially, pumping clean water in remote villages. The organization has impacted over 3.4 million people across 10 African countries including Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, eSwatini, Cameroon, DRC, Ethiopia and Senegal.
Our solar projects include the installation of solar energy at a primary school, secondary school or medical center located in a rural African village. The solar systems include the installation of solar panels, electrical wiring, light bulbs, Innovation: Africa’s innovative technology The Energy Box as well as our remote monitoring system to ensure that the projects are operating at the highest, most efficient and sustainable standards.
Our solar water pumping system provide safe and clean water to community members living in rural Africa villages, who rely solely on open and contaminated water sources. Working with local contractors, we drill into the aquifer and install a submersible solar pump to bring the water up from the ground and distribute it throughout the village.
At all of our water projects, we implement a training program whereby 10 selected community members are hired, paid and trained by our contractors in various aspects of the construction process, including the water network design, plumbing, cement mixing, brick making and so on. This training program helps ensure the long-term sustainability and success of the water projects as these community members now have the skills required to maintain their own water systems and address to any small malfunctions, including tap replacements, should they occur. Moreover, the trainees receive a certificate of completion which helps with their future employment opportunities.
2. What drives you to extend water and electricity to local communities?
Innovation: Africa recognizes that access to electricity and safe and clean water is a basic human right and necessity which should be available to all, including those living in the most rural of communities. We believe it is our obligation to share the technology we have developed and provide assistance to those most in need.
3. What key milestones have you registered in Uganda?
Since 2008, Innovation: Africa has completed 174 solar and water projects impacting 636,929 people in remote village across the Mbale and Karamoja regions of Uganda.
4. What are the major challenges you face as you implement the various projects?
Some of the major challenges we are currently facing is the limited supply of construction materials and the increase in costs associated with our solar and water projects. We are fortunate to have generous donors whose commitment to our mission remains unchanged, but we are doing our utmost to reduce the costs and provide assistance to as many communities as possible.
In Karamoja specifically, we are facing the challenge of famine due to the most recent drought experienced in our country. We are working hard to install as many solar water pumping systems as possible but in the meantime, have provided emergency food relief to a number of villages to help them at this critical time.
5. From your experience, how would you describe Uganda's situation as far as electricity and water access is concerned?
Uganda’s population growth has strained the country’s water supply, creating a myriad of problems. Out of 42 million people in the country, only 32% have access to clean water. Millions of families are therefore required to spend several hours each day walking in search of water from open and contaminated sources, thereby effecting their health and ability to work. Moreover, as children are often required to assist their mothers with this duty, many children are missing school and losing out on educational opportunities as well.
In rural areas, only 22% of the people have access to electricity. There is still a big challenge in our country as many institutions, including schools and health centers are not powered by the national grid and as such, medical care and educational services are severely compromised. Without light, mothers are forced to deliver their babies in the dark or guided by harmful kerosene lamps; without access to electricity, life-saving vaccines and medicines are unavailable as they cannot be safely stored. Moreover, without light in schools, students are unable to study adequately in the afternoons and their attainments levels are affected.
6. What advice do you have for the Government as far as water and electricity access is concerned?
Solar energy is one of the most cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable solutions to the energy and water crisis we face in Uganda. By just installing a few solar panels, to provide light, electricity and to pump water, we instantly see the transformation across these rural communities. People are healthier and safer as they no longer must walk long distances each day in search of water and people no longer suffer from waterborne diseases. Communities now have access to improved medical care, medicines and vaccinations and students can study safely under the light. Innovation: Africa truly believes in the power of solar energy to empower and uplift local communities, thereby helping to break the cycle of poverty.
7. Your last word...
I am extremely proud to be working with Innovation: Africa to help transform these rural communities, providing them with the gift of light and clean water. It is truly a blessing to be able to assist those in need and it doesn’t take much. With just a few solar panels we can make a change and transform the lives of thousands more people living in our beautiful Uganda.
Top Photo: Installation of Solar Panel on Water Tower during construction (innoafrica.org)
This article was provided by Razor PR on behalf of Innovation: Africa