Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lighting Africa ... over to you!

What goes around, comes around … is a saying I high-five a lot! You can’t escape those five words, like it or nay. Today, I dedicate it to the Lighting Africa managers we met on that fateful Thursday morning, last month … they know themselves.

Of the two, the one AE was the sore point. NOT because of his bluntness – a trait both Mercy and I bear in generous doses! – but because I found out that his condescending tone and glares were not well-placed, as I was tempted to think they were.

His condescending attitude and icy looks, I thought came, from the fact that we had made the wrong research of their mandate and objectives, and had therefore, brought the wrong profile to the right people … not the right profile to the wrong people. I appreciated his bluntness, but sadly, in this situation, it has been his hubris.

Friendly advice: the time for under-estimating both YOUTH and FEMALES in the competitive corporate/political/social system … that time, is O-V-E-R. Read my lips. Next time you are grinning from ear to ear, thinking you are hoodswinking a female, think again. If you really succeed, then she is naturally, the biggest bumbling idiot this side of the pole, and is beyond help. A woman with her wits about her … if she keeps quiet about it for a long time, START SQUIRMING. The bomb will explode under your backside when you ARE NOT expecting (the most dangerous of them).

Now me … I’m nice, so I let the shizz hit the fan a li’l earlier. But don’t step in it again … cus I have the tendency of being mean when pushed as well. Just a friendly warning to all Lighting Africa types.

SO …

We get to the meeting with Lighting Africa, and I give a detailed profile of our work … and what we hope to request from LA.

Basically, we are about diversifying Ghana’s energy alternatives, a diversification which focuses on renewable energy – ie, green energy forms. We are also about bridging the gap between the Ghanaian and the financial institutions …. What with all the types of loans being offered to individuals, not a single loan is going for solar/renewable energy projects (small or large scale) for Ghanaians. Further to these, we are creating awareness that alternatives need not be large and expensive, but can be for 1 or 2 petty systems to start with, or to power solely certain gadgets in the household … awareness on the number of RE companies within Ghana and how best to take opportunity of them. And we are creating the market as well, for RE gadgets, systems … and thereby, creating a wider consumer base for RE technologies retailers (which means more jobs). There are about a 100 more things we are doing along these major lines … note, I said “DOING”, not talking!

So what exactly do you want from us, LA asked. I told AE and NA-M … we are new and young, and we are looking to get partners, supporters, and assistance of any form to grow the Greenfoot Campaign; and even if it means Energy Solutions Foundation coming over to your side, we will do so, long as our focus is still maintained in there.

AE glares and asks permission to be blunt.

Well, he says: what exactly defines “partnership”, “support” and “assistance” as I mentioned? For all he knows, they might be different from what he understands. I say, it is anything at all you can grant us … we cannot be choosy at this point, no! He says: and you say you are bridging the gap … creating awareness … ARE YOU AN ADVERTISING AGENCY that you should do these? (Mercy’s mouth was open at this point, and her eyes turning black).

We say, we have told you that we are advocating in the financial institutions to provide loans and support to these RE projects, or these household RE spending. The fair is to let people know that going solar or other … is not as expensive or large-scale as we ALL thought. Etc etc

He says : you don’t seem to understand my point. But further to that, how do you fit into our objectives, and what are your capabilities (his own emphasis on capabilities) that I should pick you, small ESF out of several others (emphasis his own) with better pedigrees than you?

First of all, how does he determine our pedigree and capabilities off the bat like that, when he keeps tossing everything we say outta the window?!

And “small ESF”? How polite? Just the thing we need on our minds everytime we meet you, innit?

And other people have turned us down before, but they didn’t need to be half this rude, especially without provocation!

Now, can you tell me your mandate? Cus I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t know that your ultimate objective is to provide light to about 250 million Africans before a stipulated year … and we ESF are also working to provide energy to as many Ghanaians as possible, as well as put the culture of RE into the Ghanaian … starting with our kids, and starting with one solar gadget per home, TO START with!

Well, give me your capabilities, statistics, figures … then we can talk business. Besides, we are a private enterprise, we don’t do not-for-profit stuff, so all we do must yield some benefit. Also, you say Plastic Waste Recycling … is that not far removed? And are you not re-generating waste by making more plastic wares, or selling it back as raw material to Duraplast, Interplast, etc? Why not use it to produce lighting bulb parts, and other green initiative plastic wares … then we know you are not putting back more waste into the system (from NA-M)

I said, we will go back and customize a proposal just for you. But in the meantime, I simply cannot walk out of here without saying something to these queries: firstly, what we are doing is yielding revenue as well as results, and we have the progress reports to prove it, everywhere you care to look!

2ndly, our plastic waste recycling project is 100% sustainable, and Sustainability is the mother of Renewable Energy … so we definitely have not gone far off the beaten path here. It's ok to declare that it's not in line with your objectives currently … and uuuuuuuhhh … using our recycled plastic to create plastic fittings for green initiative stuff stops it from getting tossed out again? Man, you’re brilliant. Its recycled, on a light bulb … oh! Lemme keep it in my cellar or the basement … kids, never throw this out, ever! Ya hear! And so it never gets trashed or wasted, right?

Duh! Smart move, Mr. Manager!

This went on and on till NA-M, the nicer one of the duo, stepped into his colleague’s nice bluntness, and asked us to go and work on the customized proposal like we had said earlier … and not keep answering questions off the cuff!

They both sent us off with: NA-M … you are young yet (they were not more than 30 and a day as well), and this is such a huge focus. Perhaps you should just stick to Energy and try to do something in there first. You still have a lot of years ahead of you, and you will make something work, but take a little bite at a time.

Ae: And even AMA and co could not make a dent in the waste management situation, so how can you small ESF (this seemed to be his favourite pet name for us)? I admire that you want to do something about the horrible conditions in these landfills, but …. Anyway, send me you capabilities, your statistics, and figures (researched … maybe he was making sure we didn’t show up for another decade), and all other pedigrees … and I will know what to think of you then.

SO … I now put right below (in italics) cut-and-paste portions from their website www.lightingafrica.org that provides the proof that the 2 of them, especially the Ghana manager, AE …. Wanted us out of the office premise fast! Before any body heard what we were saying, and found out that 2 “small” girls were already doing their job … and more! And before their fat wallets were taken away from them.

Cus if I were your boss and I were not a corrupt, deceiving gentleman like you were, I would have done exactly so!

So after telling us off, and cancelling everything we said, I found out from their site, they LIED:

Lighting Africa works closely with a range of key stakeholders along the supply chain and beyond, necessary for successful market formation, including:

  • Manufacturers
  • Component Suppliers
  • Importers
  • Distributors
  • Retailers
  • Governments
  • Donors
  • Financiers
  • NGOs/ Academia

It is the aim of Lighting Africa to leverage global expenditures on fuel-based lighting to develop, accelerate, and sustain the market for modern off-grid lighting alternatives that offer African consumers considerably more value for their money.

A program entirely formulated and implemented based on stakeholder engagement and participation, Lighting Africa acts as an instrument of the industry, creating a level playing field rather than picking winners or specific technologies to endorse, supporting all who are willing to commit to market development.

Lighting Africa's consultations with hundreds of companies and other stakeholder groups have informed the development of a defined set of program of activities through which Lighting Africa seeks to mitigate specific market barriers.

Examples of environmental sustainability issues Lighting Africa seeks to address:

  • Component Lifecycle Analysis-Minimizing the negative environmental impact of off-grid lighting components (batteries, light fixtures, housings, etc.) on the environment, from manufacture of raw materials, through assembly, distribution, use, and disposal.
  • Component Disposal, for example waste management/ recycling of batteries and hazardous materials such as waste recycling the hazardous materials contained within

Currently, the following types of services are provided by the program:

Market information. Lighting Africa is conducting research in order to share critical business intelligence with companies and organizations interested in entering the Africa off-grid lighting market. Such information includes data on consumer needs, lighting uses and preferences, current expenditures on off-grid lighting, potential distribution channels, prevailing policy and regulatory frameworks, sources of finance, and more.

Quality Assurance. In close consultation with other stakeholders, Lighting Africa is developing a multi-pronged quality assurance program aimed at helping consumers make informed purchasing decisions while also aiding manufacturers in improving product quality to best meet consumer needs and expectations.

Business linkages. Strengthening ties between the global lighting industry and local service providers to design, develop, and deliver lighting products to off-grid communities in Africa. For example, Lighting Africa facilitates business linkages through its interactive business to business (B2B) website, a social networking tool which convenes the industry around topical areas, provides them the chance to post and receive business opportunities and other exchanges, and through a number of international and domestic conferences, trade fairs and workshops.

Consumer awareness. In order to inform consumers about modern off-grid alternatives to fuel-based lighting such as kerosene lamps and empower them to make educated purchasing decisions, Lighting Africa is planning to conduct consumer awareness and information campaigns in a number of African countries.

Program Areas

Policy & Regulation

In order to address the numerous regulatory and policy barriers that are stifling the development of off-grid lighting markets in Africa, Lighting Africa is launching a multi-country policy program. The program is designed to map and analyze policy and regulatory barriers such as import tariffs, taxes and subsidies for fossil fuels. On the basis of this, a policy dialogue with respective governments will be conducted to mitigate such barriers and improve business environments.

Market Intelligence

Description: Market Intelligence

In response to the industry call to provide greater comprehension to the scope of this emergent market opportunity, Lighting Africa is supporting the industry by leading a Market Intelligence Program to collect and disseminate critical market information to the industry.


Access to finance is often cited by companies and consumers through the supply chain as one of the biggest barriers to entering the off-grid lighting market in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lighting Africa recognizes the importance finance plays and is working on identifying the financing needs of stakeholders in order to inform the development of solutions and financial products appropriate for the market.

What goes around .... comes around.


  1. There is so much we can achieve together if only people would shed attitudes as those displayed by Lighting Africa. They should be ashamed for not joining forces with you in these early stages.

  2. It IS a shame. But thankfully, there are several others who are giving us a positive boost. And I shall be writing about them next!!

    What's good with you? Hope everything! Ta!