Designers and technological innovators across the world have long tasked themselves with bringing light to the most remote corners of the world. The infamous problem of light shortage across Africa has been tackled with every solution, from wind-up devices and solar-powered generators to rechargeable batteries and wind farms.
All of these sources are, of course, demanding of the user: many require an expensive kit or assembly process, with many technologies requiring a considerable physical effort from the user. Others have run into roadblocks with the implementation of their plans thus far, an example being Akon Lighting Africa. The project lead by the singer and businessman said in an interview with CNBC that African governments are trying to implement plans and countries should have the resources, the problem is they don’t have control of those resources — mainly their minerals.
Akon Lighting Africa
Two British designers are presenting a solution to this problem by harnessing the power of gravity to generate electricity. With the significant helping hand of gravity, London-based designers Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves developed a safe, affordable and sustainable lamp for low-income families living in the planet’s most isolated areas. With true ingenuity, Deciwatt the founders of GravityLight, have an answer to the energy challenge with a system which turns the energy of a slowly descending weight into electricity which can power an LED lamp. GravityLight, of course, presents itself as a replacement to the highly-problematic kerosene, which still accounts for much of the fuel used by off-grid lamps across the developing world.
For people in countries affected by light shortage, the costs behind powering light sources should not be underestimated. Despite the fact that the fuel powers much of the lanterns seen in off-the-grid areas, kerosene is still highly expensive, with the chemical absorbing on average 20% of its users’ income. Aside from the high cost of kerosene, the process behind obtaining the fuel is associated with often dirty and dangerous journeys, involving miles of travel on foot. Not only that – kerosene is responsible for causing millions of severe burns every year, with the toxic smoke emitted by the chemical filling homes across the world.
GravityLight took its place amongst six other energy start-ups which were awarded government funding to develop ground-breaking solutions to shortages in developing countries. As the product’s designers looked beyond solar and wind, kinetic energy provided them with a real lightbulb moment. The revelation led to the invention of the bulb’s innovative gear train, where kinetic energy effectively spins a generator which produces power. When the light goes out, a weight is hooked onto the bulb, turning it on again. Using special polymers and cutting-edge design features, GravityLight has been celebrated as one of the UK’s leading social enterprises.With the help of investors, GravityLight has been piloted across rural areas in Kenya, where a 50-night roadshow saw the company engage with communities and organisations across the nation. The outreach yielded positive results, with 90% of users signalling they would willingly switch to GravityLight over kerosene. Aside from the convenience of the product, its status as a clean, renewable, robust and reliable light source has been celebrated by users, who welcome its lack of CO2 and black carbon emissions.
Indeed, it appears the future for GravityLight is bright: the firm is currently working on enhanced technologies which provide significantly more power, including the ability to charge phones and other small devices. As well as aiding developing countries and their citizens living off-the-grid, the British firm is continuing to address the needs of isolated residences, whilst helping their people to prepare and respond to emergencies.
Akon Lighting Africa