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By Abirami Birrell

Community Power from Mobile goes to West Africa

The new ICT centre and library that is being constructed in the village.

Early this month, energy was a hot topic in West Africa and CPM wanted to be a part of it!

We hopped on planes from Nicaragua, London, India, Dubai and Kenya to meet in Accra, Ghana. Mary was the first to arrive and spent time at the first International Off-grid Renewable Energy Conference which was co-hosted by IRENA, Alliance of Rural Electrification and ECREEE. The two-day event covered policy, regulation, finance and technical topics through eight sessions, six workshops and 27 exhibitors. Mary was also invited to speak on the panel, ‘Innovation and Findings in the Field of Off-Grid Renewable Energy.’

The rest of us arrived on the 5th November, and we hosted our inaugural Community Power from Mobile Working Group, which was sponsored by Tigo, at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel.

Mary opened the day and gave an overview of the history of Community Power from Mobile. Following this, we invited Garry Bridgwater, Integrity Manager at Millicom, to give a welcome presentation and he talked through the role of the Integrity team to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainability. Their strategy has a strong ethos to create value, reduce cost, develop legitimacy and reputation and as a result to gain competitive advantage.

To conclude the morning’s session, Michel Mansard, member of the Alliance for Rural Electrification Board, shared lessons learned. The conclusion was drawn that there is no single business model to address the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity and that what is required is a bottom-up de-centralised approach with long-term partners as well as policies and regulations with clear targets.

The rest of the day was divided into 3 panel discussions:

  • Panel 1 – Mobile Operators Driving Community Power from Mobile
  • Panel 2 – Leveraging Mobile Infrastructure for Community Energy
  • Panel 3 – Mobile Enhanced Utility Access and Leveraging Distribution Channels

Further details about the outcome of these panels can be found on our highlights document.

Sanjay Khazanchi from the Rockefeller Foundation’s SPEED programme concluded the day, talking about their rural electrification programme in India. Rockefeller Foundation also generously sponsored an evening cocktail reception for the group.

The next two days were also spent at the Movenpick Ambassador, this time for the Green Power for Mobile African Regional Working Group. For more details on the outcomes from this event, please see our highlights document.

By the 8th November, Mary and I were ready to get out into the field and had the opportunity to visit an Altobridge Lite-Site in Botuku. We made the three-hour journey there and were welcomed by the village elders who were keen to show us around the site and tell us what impact having mobile communication had on their lives. There were particularly excited about the new ICT centre and library that was being constructed in the village, courtesy of their local government. They even took our email addresses so that they can keep in touch when the facilities are up and running!

While my time in Accra came to an end, Mary and Michael continued on to Dakar. Stayed tuned to hear more about the Lighting Africa Conference and their three-day road trip around Senegal!


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