The simple task of charging a cell phone is no simple matter in rural African villages far from an electric grid. With the advent of tiny rooftop solar panels electricity could be accessible to millions.
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African governments are struggling to meet to electric needs of the poorest of the poor living in rural areas. Living off-grid may be a lifestyle choice to some and a fact of everyday living to the poorest of the poor. However, tiny rooftop solar panels and high-efficiency LED lights across the African continent could provide enough electricity to charge cell phones. Cell phones are vital for people in rural areas with no access to banks in order to send and receive money, access medical care and stay in contact with family and friends.
What does Off-Grid Mean? Off the grid (off-grid) means creating your own self-sufficient environment and being able to operate completely independently of all traditional utility services. Many African countries believe expanding the electric grid is not cost-effective into rural communities. Therefore, a simple task of charging a cell phone is no simple matter in rural farming villages far from an electric grid. People walk miles to the nearest town with electricity, dropped off their cell phone at a store that recharges phones for 30 cents or more and may wait up to three days since demand is so high. Charging a cell phone is expensive considering most Africans living in rural villages live on US $1.25 to $2.50 per day.
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Rural regions of many African countries lack banks; the cellphone has been embraced as a tool for commercial transactions as well as personal communications. More than 69 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa has no access to electricity. In the rural areas, the number of people without access to electricity rises to more than 85%. In other words, that is over 600 million people in the 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to electricity. To put 600 million people into perspective, the United States has a total population of 314 million people.
Off-grid tiny rooftop solar panel systems have proved their worth, the lack of an effective distribution network or a reliable way of financing the start-up costs has prevented them from becoming more widespread. Another issue is only about 8% of solar panels are manufactured to produce electricity that does not feed into the grid.