World Cup Comes to Africa's Largest Slum via Solar

Residents of Kenya's Kibera, the largest slum settlement in sub-Saharan Africa, will have an opportunity to watch the FIFA 2010 World Cup live from South Africa, thanks to solar-power technology developed by youths in the slums, with technical assistance from Solafrica.ch, a Swiss-based, not-for-profit organization.

Kibera, situated in Nairobi, has a population of about 1 million people. Normally, residents of Kibera miss watching the World Cup due to lack of electricity, TV sets or money to subscribe to pay-TV channels.

"The Kibera youths have now conquered the power of the sun," said Joshiah Ramogi, the executive director of Solafrica. "We want to show the residents of the slums the benefits of solar technology. We want to convince them to adopt new solar LED technology that will benefit them and their children."

Solafrica.ch has partnered in this project with Greenpeace and the Kibera Community Youth Programme (KCYP) to train 28 youths from the slum to make solar products including LED lamps to be sold locally and in Switzerland.

According to the UN-Habitat organization, an estimated 560 million people live without electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, and uptake of solar power is slow given its high costs. Several technologies are competing to reduce costs and to improve the efficiency of solar power, including photovoltaics and concentrated solar thermal applications.

The KCYP uses expertise as well as materials including photovoltaics, which convert solar radiation into electricity, from Switzerland. The solar power station used for the World Cup open-air viewing is a portable, compact system using solar panels and accumulators. It does not require complex wiring and can provide light and charge mobile phones and other small devices.

At the end of the World Cup, the portable solar station will be installed in one of the nearest schools to provide power for various needs.

A similar technology has also been deployed in Jericho, South Africa, for residents who can't afford the World Cup tickets.

In both Kibera and Jericho, between 300 and 1,000 people per day will watch, free of charge, World Cup matches that will be beamed live on a large screen, making for an open-air cinema powered solely by solar energy. The "solar soccer" viewing is the first such public event powered by solar energy, Solafrica said.

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