Insights from Uganda on why solar street lights make sense | 4/3/2019 | Staff
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Street-lighting is important. It allows informal vendors and traders to operate for longer hours and improves road and public safety. It also makes streets feel safer and more secure, especially for women.

But street-lighting is sorely lacking in many of sub-Saharan Africa's cities, and where it is present it's highly unreliable. In Kampala, Uganda, for example just 8% of the city's paved road and street network is illuminated.

Cities - Pressing - Challenges - Budgets - Street

In cities faced with multiple pressing challenges and very limited budgets, street lighting is rarely a priority.

Even when there's political will, there are major barriers to implementing conventional street-lighting. Many cities have large areas of informal settlements which aren't connected to the national grid. The upfront costs of grid connectivity and street light infrastructure – like poles, lamps and pavements – are huge.

Solution - Policy - Research - Paper - Work

The solution may lie instead with solar lighting. We wrote a policy research paper based on work we did in two Ugandan cities, the capital Kampala and Jinja a secondary city with a population of around 80,000, and found that solar street-lighting could offer a cheaper, more sustainable solution – and bring huge benefits.

Solar street lights are cheaper to install and operate since they generate their own power, instead of drawing from the grid.

Kampala - Jinja - Cities - Governments - Street

We chose Kampala and Jinja because both cities' governments had installed solar street lights in 2018: more than 1800 in Kampala and 92 in Jinja. We wanted to know what the lights' impact had been since they were installed and if this could be replicated in other cities across Uganda and sub-Saharan Africa.

We analysed national policy documents and city development strategies and consulted with research colleagues at Makerere University in Kampala to identify a range of stakeholders to interview. In total, we interviewed 23 people including government officials, NGOs and members of local communities, like business owners and road...
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