Can Cleaner Cooking and Solar Power Help Solve Energy Poverty in Africa?

KWADUKUZA, South Africa—A Zulu crowd’s ululations welcomed Jacob Zuma, president of the Republic of South Africa, back to KwaZulu–Natal, his home province. He had come to tell them of his commitment to bring them, and the rest of the nation, better access to energy—as well as to announce the distribution of solar-powered hot water heaters and LED lighting systems as well as clean-burning cookstoves.

“One of South Africa’s major challenges in poor and rural areas is access to energy,” Zuma told his constituents at this rally last month, standing on stage with Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Kandeh Yumkella, director general of the U.N. Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), who had helped pay for the modern energy devices installed in iLembe District homes, health clinics and schools. “People have to burn wood and coal to get some form of heat but with soot that produces [tuberculosis] and asthma.”

Read more