This is a guest post by Allen Grane, former intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. Allen is currently an officer in the Army National Guard. His interests are in Africa, conflict, and conflict resolution.
On July 8, 2014, former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo and Innovation: Africa, an Israeli non-profit, launched a new program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to provide clean and sustainable energy to people in need. The program will serve people in Mutombo’s hometown of Kinshasa and neighboring villages. Mutombo reached out to Innovation: Africa after hearing of the organization’s success in developing solar energy projects in Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and South Africa.
Innovation: Africa will provide solar power to four facilities in the DRC. The organization uses the solar power to administer a number of electric services, such as lighting a school that serves over 740 students and providing water to a Kinshasa orphanage with 150 children. In conjunction with the Christian Broadcast Network, Innovation: Africa has drilled down over fifty meters into an aquifer that can provide the orphanage with its own source of clean water. Using solar energy, this water can be brought up to the surface.
The projects are varied. The group is also setting up a light installation that will allow for more efficient energy use at the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in Kinshasa. Another major project provides energy to a medical clinic in Bu Village, which serves a community of over eleven thousand people.
By providing energy to these facilities, Innovation: Africa is offering communities hope. The energy that is provided through solar power allows the medical facilities to operate at night and to refrigerate medicines and vaccines. Medicine and access to clean water offer children a better chance of survival in a country where the under-five mortality rate is three times higher than the global average.
Sivan Ya’ari, founder and president of Innovation: Africa, is proud that these projects are developed to be self-sustaining. The organization encourages participating schools, orphanages, and clinics to use the access to energy in order to develop their own businesses. Innovation: Africa provides oversight to ensure that the businesses are sustainable. One of the organization’s business models is to set up cellular phone charging stations where customers pay a fee to charge their phones. The profits of these businesses are managed by a board and overseen by Innovation: Africa’s field managers in order to ensure that the money is used to repair and maintain the solar panels.
In just five years, Innovation: Africa has helped over 450,000 people in six countries and is now running seventy-eight solar power projects. According to a 2011 World Bank report, only 6 percent of the population of the DRC has electricity. Innovation: Africa has the opportunity to help a great deal of people through its work.