Fact Check: Akon Lighting Africa

Saw a friend posted a photo claiming Akon had provided solar power to 600 million Africans, but the media was not going to tell you about it. It also questioned what is it the NGOs are doing.

This was an amazing claim, so I went looking into it. “Akon solar power” led me to his company Akon Lighting Africa. The key figures on the home page look much more modest with 100K street lamps, 1,200 micro-grids, and 102K domestic kits. The initial claim was that there were 600M without access to electricity. It does not look like it has put a dent in that number, much less the goal of 80 million people. The company was founded in 2014.

In 2015 they claimed to have provided solar power to about 8 million people (using the average household size of 8.7 people in Senegal rounded down; used average household size for Senegal as that is where Akon is from and started).

As of 2016, they claimed to have helped 1.5M lives.

Source: Twitter search for “from:AkonLighting million

Hopefully 1 million households in the first one should have been lives to make it consistent. Otherwise, in 2016 there was a huge backslide.

Let’s unpack the current numbers on the website.

  • 102K domestic kits = 887.4K lives
  • It is not clear what the micro-grid means, but the website has photos of charging stations attached to a set of solar cells. That could mean about 600K additional people counted not with power in their home, but able to visit a charging station to charge up a device to bring home.
    • My interpretation of micro-grid would be a network of homes connected to a grid. It would also power the street lamps.

Green is Pretty?

Weird dream this morning before I woke:

I was walking around familiar places in my home town with a woman I know from there and her niece. Every where we went, sites looked way prettier than they appear now.

In every commercial area between the road and parking lots were 10 feet tall berms with decorative trees along the top and azalea bushes at the base. Every parking lot had its own holding pond for the water the lots displace.

Buildings were multi-story and huddled together in bunches. Even the corner gas station I visited most days after school was now just the first floor with the Walgreens down the road now occupying the second floor and the offices catercorner on the third through fifth floors. Every building was somewhere between light and dark brown.

Signs were no bigger than 4′ x 2′. None of these huge monstrosities one can see from miles down the road.

Philosophically, I would not portray myself as politically green. The environment falls pretty low when ranked against things I consider politically important. (Not even in the top 5 or 10.)

Also, I am lazy. Don’t make me have to exert disciplined behavior to effect change. Just change it in small steps towards what it should be. I’ll notice, but the small steps ensure I’ll be upset for maybe 24 hours and over the course of a few weeks will no longer care.

Hopefully the politics are not invading my sleep?

Political Campaigns Waste Oil

On NPR this morning was a puff piece about how busy was one of the presidential candidates. Who it was does not really matter. All presidential candidates do similiar. Three plane flights and driving hundreds of miles a day is described as them doing public good.

But is it?

For every candidate for president, the is a personal entourage of a dozen or more handlers plus the paparazzi who follow them. So there is probably a motorcade of 20 or more cars. Earlier in the election cycle one media person bragged about how another candidate could not rent enough cars because one who was already going through the area had rented them all.

Thankfully they end up carpooling, so that is one small point in their favor.

Why would people who waste so much fuel getting elected do anything about the problem?