Lighting up lives

Solar lights have been installed in Sizanani and Sokhulumi informal settlements, making residents' lives safer

Solar lights have been installed in Sizanani and Sokhulumi informal settlements, making residents' lives safer

Sizanani informal settlement in northern Gauteng had a significant life-changing experience in early March when solar streetlights that illuminate areas almost the size of a football pitch were donated, putting an end to residents’ fears of walking outside at night.

A South African company, in partnership with a United Kingdom-based company, used the opportunity also to introduce house-lighting solar kits and technologies that can reduce the electricity consumption of conventional streetlights by up to 70%.

“Our life has totally changed,” says one of the project’s beneficiaries. “The solar lights are keeping us out of the dark and our children are enjoying longer hours of reading.”

Jerry Mahlangu, a representative of the Tshwane Metro, says it is considering using these technologies throughout the capital city and its neighbouring townships.

“One of the benefits of using solar energy both in the house and [on] the streets is that it provides an uninterrupted power supply. As long as the sun is in existence, so will be the supply of solar energy,” says Jeffrey Ngwenya, director of Amandhla, one of the companies involved in the donation.

“Our position is that no one should go without electricity in South Africa,” he says. “This is why we have chosen to launch our solar kits in a poor community.”

Home-lighting kits were supplied to four of the most disadvantaged families living in Sokhulumi. Craig Morgan, director of Videre Global, says the expensive kits were of the highest quality. 

“The long-term plan was to manufacture the kits locally to cut down on costs,” he says. “One of the ways to supply affordable solar lighting products is to sub-contract local companies to manufacture some of the components, and in the long term to assemble the kits locally.

“Another advantage of sub-contracting local companies is that it helps to grow the local economy, and at the same time creates employment and sustainability of solar energy technology supply.”

For the first time, children from disadvantaged families would be able to read for longer hours, says Ngwenya. This would create the opportunity for them to improve their matric passes, so they could be admitted to institutions of higher learning.

“We believe that upon finishing tertiary education, these children will come back to develop Sokhulumi through providing scarce skills and services.”