The manufacture and maintenance of solar lamps in Africa: a nascent industry creating skilled jobs

Cheaper and less polluting than kerosene or battery-powered lamps, solar lamps are booming in rural Africa, where 500 million people still do not have access to electricity. The assembly, repair and recycling of solar lights could generate thousands of jobs.

These are most often small portable autonomous lamps – or even pockets the price of which hardly exceeds 40 euros. They most often have sockets for recharging a cell phone or radio. Several million lamps are sold each year on the continent.

Several African countries see it as an industrial and job-creating opportunity. The establishment of assembly, repair and recycling workshops are increasing on the continent. And require skilled jobs such as electronic welders, metal processors, assemblers, quality inspectors… Several thousand indirect jobs are also created in the distribution chain, after-sales service and product recycling.

Solar lamp manufacturing workshop in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in 2017 (Lagazel Company)

It is a new industrial model and a good alternative to the import of Chinese products often with a short lifespan, which end up in the trash or worse in nature, with serious soil pollution.

Winners of the World Bank’s Lighting Africa competition, the French company Lagazel was one of the very first to manufacture solar lights in Africa. Its founders launched their first workshop in 2016 in Burkina Faso with around thirty jobs to boot. The company is now present in workshops or networks distribution to Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mali and Benin. She is preparing to inaugurate a new workshop on October 7, 2021 in Benin.

While the basic components still come mostly from foreign suppliers, solar lamps are assembled and repaired locally near the users. Thanks to the use of solar panels, the workshop can operate independently, including in remote villages.

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The advantage of not importing products from Asia, in addition to creating local employment, is to have a real repair service that extends the life of the lamps, a collection of end-of-life products. that can be recycled, thanks in particular to research work carried out with the Atomic Energy and Energy Commission. This circular economy saves raw material and avoids sending tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. A true model of industrialization for the continent.

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