A World Bank assessment of lighting in Tanzania found that 37% of people (the largest single grouping in the study) wanted improved lighting for the impact it would make on the education of their children. They said that it would allow their children to do their homework at night.
This concept may be foreign to those in developed countries, but in Africa, candles and paraffin lamps are mostly used by children to do their homework. The flicker and poor light quality often leads to eyestrain and concentration problems with shorter study times being the result.
LED lights are low power consumers and are thus perfect for use with a small solar panel and rechargeable battery pack. Yet low quality led lights that fade very quickly (lumen depreciation) and sub-standard battery packs that do not last more than a few hundred cycles, are damaging the market. Poor people cannot afford to make mistakes on new technology and given the social dynamic of African communities, word of failure spreads fast.
We need to ensure that only good quality led lighting finds its way into the market, and we need to encourage it. Education is the key to development (and to buying good quality LED products), and until we recognise that and do everything needed to improve it, we will not see the growth in Africa that we all wish for. Promoting affordable and useful lighting technology is one way we can do this – and as LED lighting professionals we also need to educate the consumer about the technology to avoid damaging what has to be one of the most important technologies of the millenium.