Here’s another example of how LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and solar panels can benefit developing countries! Turns out there’s an organization called Lighting American, which is a World Bank Group initiative that’s working to provide modern lighting to the 250 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa. These people have no access to electricity, so they spend their nights in total darkness, unless they’ve got other fuel source such as kerosene or fire.

By working with various organizations, Lighting Africa hopes to develop markets in developing countries that will distribute non-fossil fuel lighting products (those that don’t depend on electricity or any other burned fuel) to communities that lack a connection to the electricity grid. Of course, the logical solution is to develop lighting that not only uses power sparingly (LEDs or CFLs – compact fluorescents), but also gets the power that it does use free from the sun through mini solar panels.

To that end, the recent Lighting Africa conference in Ghana in May 2008 awarded 16 companies and organizations a grant of $200,000 which they are to use to establish projects that will bring clean, safe, and affordable lighting that’s grid-free to the people of Africa.

Philips, the big lighting company, has partnered with the Dutch government in a public-private partnership (PPP) to work on one such project. Their aim is to provide 14 countries and 10 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa with low-cost, sustainable lighting solutions by 2015.

These initiatives make so much sense to me. These developing countries should be free to use light just as we do, but hopefully we can help them choose more sustainable ways of doing so. It’s great that we can help others learn from our mistakes so that we can all achieve a more sustainable future.