SIKPE-AFIDEGNON, Togo (Reuters) – Abla Ogodo used to walk 10 kilometres to fetch water for her family. Now that a new well in her own village runs on solar power, she does not have to go anywhere.
A UK-based power company called BBOXX, in partnership with France’s EDF Group, has launched a programme to power the entire village of Sikpe-Afidegnon with energy from the sun.
It runs streetlights, houses, schools and shops, transforming this remote maze of red dirt streets in southern Togo whose only previous access to electricity was from noisy generators which ran on expensive and polluting fuel oil.
“We would spend the whole day just getting water,” Ogodo said, holding a large bucket on top of her head. “Now we have water whenever we want. We are free.”
About 1.2 billion people worldwide have no access to the power grid, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), limiting economic development. Many governments in the developing world are extending access to national networks, but Africa is lagging, with less than 40 percent of households connected, IEA figures show.
In West Africa, tens of millions of people lack reliable access to electricity. For companies developing off-grid programs, that represents an untapped market worth billions of dollars.
Sikpe-Afidegnon is the first Togolese village to benefit from BBOXX’s new off-grid system, which the company hopes to expand across Togo. For now the power is free, but residents will have to start paying market rates in a few months.
“Life changed in the village,” said tailor Beaugar Mebouto as he sewed a piece of colourful fabric in a small workshop. Productivity and revenues have increased now that he does not have to rely on a generator.
“Now we have electricity at any time of the day,” he said.
(Reporting by Noel Tadognon; Additional reporting and writing by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Edward McAllister and Ed Osmond)