The FT and BBC agreed yesterday: brilliant design means solar lighting makes even more sense

Coverage in the FT and BBC yesterday recounted how the SM100 solar light – developed by my team at SolarAid with Chinese solar giant Yingli, and designed by cool UK design company Inventid – is a big new opportunity to fight poverty in Africa and elsewhere.

With this light, SolarAid can turn £4 into £145 cash for local spending on food and essentials in east Africa ….in a time of famine. There cannot be many social-benefit paybacks as good as this, anywhere, today. On our website you can read how we calculate our costs for delivering solar lights to Africans, not-for-profit, so they can resell them, for profit. In this way, we create both jobs and big savings on oil no longer needed for burning in kerosene lamps. Our costs of delivery are £4 per solar light, based on four years of audited accounts. We know from our industry-leading follow-up research that the savings on each light sold are £145. We further know what that gets spent on ….and food and seeds are high on the list. This is a great way to help people help themselves while famine stalks the continent. We also save a tonne of carbon dioxide emissions per kerosene lamp replaced.

To get solar lights out to the frontier areas where we work, SolarAid is currently overdependent on increasingly impossible-to-predict and precarious donations from large organisations. Managing the cash-flow on this basis alone, as we try to get as many lights into the field as we can, is really stressful for my team (OK, I admit it, me too). So I am endeavouring to boost the charity’s ability to help by soliciting as much of a regular and predictable donation stream as I can from individuals and communities (including those within big organisations!). With that predictability, we could actually get many more products into the field. Accordingly, I’m writing to everyone I know (and lots besides) to ask if they can help. So please, could you consider signing up for £4 each month – the price of a drink – to get one light to Africa each month, a dozen a year? (Or more drinks if you like of course!). It is easy to do so here.
A few clicks of a mouse on our website, a single e-mail for friends / contacts, just forwarding this …or perhaps some good idea I haven’t thought of! – anything you can do to help will be hugely appreciated.

Come on. Its a war. Lets us good guys win it. To do that we have to win many battles. And this one, given the economics of cheap solar versus expensive oil, is so eminently winnable.