NIGERIA ELECTRICITY - The surprise was finding that people dependent on candles, batteries, kerosene and fuel for generators in countries without a secure supply of electricity spend more on power than solar options.

The founders of Dutch company Lumos knew they could do better. In Nigeria, for the cost of powering a small generator for two hours they offer enough solar power to light a house, cool a room with a fan and charge cell phones for about eight hours. Customers can even watch TV for a few hours.

For Nigerian government clerk Sandra Besong, it means her three children aged 8 to 17 can study and read at night.

“Before, I was using a local lamp with kerosene, but the flame wasn’t bright enough for the children to read,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Masaka, in central Nasarawa state.

“We love the light!” she said. “The children appreciate it because they can read, watch TV, and they can use fans, so they are not hot. And there’s none of the noise and fumes from a generator.” Fans are important in Nigeria, where temperatures average 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

Besong said she’s also saving money. Powering a small generator for two or three hours a day cost her up to 7,000 naira ($23) a month, compared to 4,500 ($15) for solar, which provides double the time. She pays her bills through her cellphone.

Development across Africa is hampered by a lack of electricity. In 2015, 621 million people in sub-Saharan Africa — or two out of three — lacked access to power, and the numbers are growing, according to a report by the Africa Progress Panel. “It would take the average Tanzanian eight years to use as much electricity as the average American consumes in a single month,” it said in a report .


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