Like this family in Ghana, some 1.6 billion people rely on kerosene to see at night, which leads to an untold number of fires and pollutes indoor air. People spend close to $40 billion worldwide on kerosene each year, which costs up to one-third of the income of some people in developing regions.
As more investors and entrepreneurs turn to the third world, a growing number of start-ups are developing "green," off-grid lighting that's safer and cleaner, and that extends the hours during which people can work and study.
"It's a different world where we live when the sun goes down," said Lindsay Madeira, a projects officer at International Finance Corp. "In our culture, we're so used to just flicking the light on. For people who haven't had that, there's this whole other world, and there becomes so many extra hours in the day with better light."
Innovations in durable and energy-efficient lighting for rural regions could "leapfrog" back to the developing world. For instance, a lamp built to withstand years of extreme weather in sub-Saharan Africa could return in some form to the U.S. market for equipment for camping or natural disasters.
Proposals for lights powered by the sun, fuel cells, or manual labor were among the entries in the World Bank Lighting Africa competition. On May 16, winners received up to $200,000 each in the IFC-backed contest, held in Accra, Ghana. Awardees included , which is building thin-film solar LED lights, as well as a team of Harvard students creating microbial fuel-cell-based lighting through .
June 24, 2008 4:00 AM PDT
Photo by: The World Bank, International Finance, and Lighting Africa
| Caption by: Elsa Wenzel
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