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The International Energy Agency estimate that around the world, 1.8 billion people live without electricity. In Africa, this is a particular issue. In an interview with CNBC, Ponmile Osibo from the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association said: “The situation is Arica at the moment is quite significant, over 40 percent of the population does not have direct access to energy.”

In order to get around this problem, many families rely on kerosene lamps to provide them with lighting. Unfortunately, kerosene lamps give off noxious fumes, contributing to 600,000 preventable deaths per year in Africa. Kerosene is also expensive to buy, with many families spending 30 percent of their income on buying the fuel.



Creating an alternative to kerosene

One company has come up with a solution to this problem, aiming to provide people living off-grid with access to a clean alternative to kerosene lamps. Step forward the GravityLight Foundation. With the clue in the name, this light uses gravity to help power it, as explained by co-founder Caroline Angus:

"Gravity Light is an off-grid light. It's powered by just lifting a weight, so you fill a bag with rocks or sand and winch up the weight, and as it gradually falls, it will turn a gear box which generates power.”

By combining potential energy and kinetic energy, GravityLight provides an instant source of light, with no running costs after purchase. GravityLight provides a light with five times the brightness of kerosene, with none of the dangers associated with open-wick lamps. Each time the weight is lifted, GravityLight provides 20 minutes of light without the use of any batteries. The main light also comes with the option at attaching two ‘satlights’, which are smaller lights that can be positioned around the house.

The price of GravityLight depends upon whether it’s bought in the developing world, where it will cost roughly $25, or the developed world where it will cost you around $63. The company is currently focusing its efforts in Kenya, but GravityLight is available to buy worldwide.

GravityLight also aims to provide a sustainable business model which creates local jobs. Rather than provide free products, they have established field sales teams and local partnerships in Kenya, providing local residents with the opportunity to earn a living and learn new skills by selling the light within their communities.

As well as providing a safe and clean source of light for those living in the developing world, it is also a good option as a source of light in an emergency – a natural disaster cutting out the power grid for example. Unlike solar light sources with batteries that degrade over time, GravityLight is battery free so can be stored indefinitely.

Top image: The Gravitylight. Source: (Gravitylight)


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Emma Stenhouse, MSc

Emma qualified with a BSc (Hons) in Equine Science in 2003 and has had a passion for horses since a young age. She continued her academic career with an MSc in Applied Marine Science, gained in 2004. Emma’s main scientific focus was the navigational techniques of sea turtles and whether they use the acoustics of the surf-zone as a cue for nesting. She then worked for a sea turtle conservation project on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica before travelling to New Zealand where she worked as a Mari...Read More

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