Category: environmental crisis
Let’s face facts: Louisiana is sick and dying | Opinion
worker | September 10, 2017 | 8:44 pm | Economy, environmental crisis, Local/State | Comments closed

Let’s face facts: Louisiana is sick and dying | Opinion

Two questions have dogged me lately: If I could go back 18 years, would I raise my children in Louisiana? Would I still view this as a place that would nurture and educate them, offer opportunities for personal and financial growth and help my wife and me imbue in them the values important to us?

When my son and daughter were born, I believed the answer was yes. I had hope. Even three years ago, I still had faith in Louisiana, as I wrote in a column to young people who considered abandoning the state: “Stay here, find like-minded people, organize them, expand your influence, demand change, but don’t give up on this amazing, beautiful place. Its good people — flawed as we might be — are worth your efforts.”

When I wrote that, I believed Louisiana had brighter days. I hoped there was a small flame of desire to recreate something great here. I thought Louisiana’s people wanted to redeem their state.

I was wrong.

Today, I ask only, “Is this as good as it will ever be?” The answer, I believe, is yes. It’s not getting better and could get much worse.

For all its rich and diverse culture and abundant natural resources, Louisiana is the sick man of the United States. We’re an economic basket case and a toxic waste pit of environmental neglect and misconduct.

We are the state most adept at missing opportunities and abusing and wasting our abundant natural resources.

Louisiana is my home in every way and, at 59, I cannot imagine living anywhere else. And yet it’s time to admit this is a place with no visible promise and little hope. To pretend otherwise is to engage in delusional thinking. We must face facts.

I’m not saying everyone should give up and leave. I’m staying and fighting for our future. There is much work to do, and I believe I can make a difference. I suspect most of you feel the same. But if we’re staying, we must be honest about Louisiana’s deplorable condition and bleak future.

Blame our leaders, if you like. But the problem is us. On average, we aspire to mediocrity; we are happy with good enough. We live in a land of plenty but view the world from an attitude of scarcity.

We mask our state’s profound illness and disease with colorful festivals and spicy food.

We tolerate — sometimes celebrate — our corrupt politicians. (Witness the recent outpouring of affection for disgraced former Gov. Edwin Edwards on his 90th birthday.)

Speaking of celebrations, nothing makes us happier than college football, which is our true religion. In the fall, we worship on Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium, the state’s holy shrine. Meanwhile, what transpires across campus — in the classrooms and lecture halls — barely concerns us.

Our elected leaders sell their souls to big oil and the chemical industry. The first has spoiled our land, pillaged our resources and damaged our coast, while the other has poisoned our air and water.

We are 47th in environmental quality. Perhaps it’s no coincidence we have the nation’s highest cancer rate.

Almost a third of our children live in poverty, the third-highest rate in the nation. That’s not changed for decades.

We have the seventh-lowest median household income and the third-highest unemployment rate. After decades of so-called “reforms,” we still have the worst public schools in the country. We’ve cut higher education funding more than almost every other state.

I could go on. We are first in almost everything that’s bad and last (or near last) in almost everything that’s good. In most cases, even mediocrity seems beyond our reach.

The experience of the last four decades should settle any question about whether Louisiana and its people will soon awaken from their coma of complacency. We know well the diseases of ignorance, poverty and pollution that afflict us — and have accepted them as sad facts, not obscenities.

The question isn’t whether there is much hope or aspiration left in Louisiana’s people. There is not. The question, instead, is whether this is a place our promising young people should abandon as soon as possible.

So here’s what I’ll tell my children: If you want to stay, then regard Louisiana as a mission field. However, if you want a place that will enlarge your life, expand your horizons, offer new opportunities and challenge your thinking, you should look elsewhere.

Our insular, prehistoric ways will not soon spawn a dynamic, creative culture to revive our economy and attract bright young minds to study at our universities and, after graduation, remain here to build a vibrant state. Our people have said loud and clear over the decades that we do not desire such a state.

It’s time to admit that Louisiana is sick and dying.

Robert Mann, an author and former U.S. Senate and gubernatorial staffer, holds the Manship Chair in Journalism at the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. Read more from him at his blog, Something Like the Truth. Follow him on Twitter @RTMannJr or email him at

Who is to blame for Greece’s disastrous wildfires?
worker | August 15, 2017 | 8:03 pm | Analysis, Climate Change, Communist Party Greece (KKE), environmental crisis, Greece | Comments closed

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Who is to blame for Greece’s disastrous wildfires?

Firefighters in Greece battle wildfires northeast of Athens for a third day trying to prevent a blaze that scorched thousands of hectares of pine forest from spreading further. The fire near Athens started in Kalamos, a coastal holiday spot some 45 km (30 miles) northeast of the capital, and spread to three more towns, damaging dozens of homes. A state of emergency was declared in the area.

On Monday 14 August, firefighters battled more than 90 forest fires across Greece, an outbreak fed by dry winds and hot weather that saw blazes burning near Athens, in the Peloponnese, and on the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia.
ΚΚΕ: Both SYRIZA and New Democracy share responsibility for their policies over forest protection, land commercialization, privatization of firefighting services.
Communicating with the Citizens Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, the parliamentary representative of the Communist Party of Greece Thanasis Pafilis asked for measures in order to combat wildfires, while a KKE group headed by MP Giannis Giokas visited the area of Varnavas in Attica. 
In a statement issued on Monday, the KKE mentions: “The existence of a possible arson plan based on the commercialization of the land, not only does not decrease, but increases the responsibilities of the SYRIZA-ANEL government which, following the policy of the ND-PASOK governments, maintains and strengthens the under-funding and the huge deficiencies in the sector of forest protection and firefighting. As a result of that, the “fight” between the SYRIZA-ANEL government and New Democracy over the burned land, cannot hide their guilt for their “incendiary” policy”. (Source:

Michalis Michael, Firefighter (retired): “All governments dismantled forest protection”.
In an interview with Real FM radio, the retired firefighter and KKE member Michalis Michael, underlined that the state authorities should be ready to combat the weather conditions, the many fronts and any arson plan but it is not because the policy of the governments is to shrink spending on fire protection.
As Michael said, since 2009 and each following year, 120 million Euros have been reduced from the Firefighting Service budget and added that hundreds of firefighting vehicles are stationary due to faults, because the necessary credits do not exist. 
Moreover, he said that the force of the Firefighting Service has been decreased by 4,000 seats in the permanent, while the aim is the privatization that has already taken place with air-firefighting and commercialization, the sale of fire safety as it has been done with Fraport, as well as of the privatized road axes. 
Drink Up?! Brain-Eating Amoeba Found In Louisiana Water System
worker | June 30, 2017 | 7:48 pm | environmental crisis, Local/State | Comments closed
Petri Dish

Drink Up?! Brain-Eating Amoeba Found In Louisiana Water System

© AP Photo/ Thomas Kienzle

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A potentially deadly brain-eating amoeba has been discovered by health officials in the water system of a Louisiana parish.

The Louisiana state Department of Health found Naegleria Fowleri in a sample taken from a water hydrant in Terrebonne Parish, in the Schriever water system, according to Consolidated Waterworks District No. 1 General Manager Michael Sobert.

He wrote on the parish government Facebook page, “We would caution the public to refrain from allowing water to enter their nasal passages,” but also said “The water is safe to drink.” The amoeba was found in a sample taken from local a fire hydrant.

Two years ago, a sample from the same hydrant tested positive for the amoeba.

Residents have been advised to run hoses, shower and bath taps for five minutes before using them to flush out the pipes, and not to allow children to play with sprinklers or hoses unsupervised. They’ve also been told to continue these and other precautions until testing confirms that the amoeba is no longer present.

He added that officials have changed disinfectants to address the problem, converting to “free chlorine” method for 60 days to remove any remnants of the amoeba.

The amoeba occurs naturally in freshwater and causes a disease called primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), which can destroy brain tissue. Early symptoms of PAM can resemble bacterial meningitis.

Louisiana has tested for Naegleria Fowleri since 2015, sampling public waters systems as it gets warmer.

Parish resident Bernadee Pitre told the local CBS affiliate that he’s hesitant to ingest the water even if it has been declared safe. “It’s scary. You don’t hear about them a lot … [I’m] definitely going to be more careful about that,” he said.

Socialism makes the difference as Cuba confronts climate change
worker | June 17, 2017 | 9:24 pm | Climate Change, Cuba, environmental crisis, Fidel Castro, political struggle, socialism, United Nations | Comments closed

By W. T. Whitney Jr.

  1. B. Fidel Castro’s speech at the Rio Earth Summit June 12, 1992 appears below

Cuba’s Council on Ministers on April 25 approved “Life Task (“Tarea Vida”): the State’s Plan for Confronting Climate Change.” Life task will be submitted to Cuba’s National Assembly for approval. Implementation will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA). The ministry’s head, Elba Rosa Pérez, indicated the Plan will require “progressive investments executed over short (the year 2020), medium (2030), long (2050), and very long (2100) terms.”

The unveiling of Life Task comes as the latest manifestation of Cuba’s sustained endeavor to contain the impact of climate change. Over the course of many years the Cuban government has dedicated resources and talent to the project. Policy makers have relied on facts, data, and ongoing research. The process has been orderly and thorough, and yet accepting of modifications to fit new realities. Crucially, the nation has responded to climate change on behalf of all Cubans.

Climate change, of course, affects the United States, in particular Virginia’s Tangier Island, now being engulfed by Chesapeake Bay waters. “[A]t some point it will be too late to save Tangier,” announced Virginia official John Bull on June 2. That was one day after President Donald Trump indicated the United States would be withdrawing from the non-binding Paris Climate Change agreement of 2015.

Cuba’s approach is different. In June 1992, Cuban President Fidel Castro was in Rio de Janeiro attending the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – the “Rio Earth Summit.” There, nations of the world arranged for future UN – sponsored meetings at which scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would be reviewed. Those recurring meetings, each a so-called “Conference of the Parties,” have led to agreements for reducing carbon emissions, such as the Paris agreement of 2015.

Castro could well have stayed home in 1992; Cubans were facing catastrophe, both humanitarian and economic, following the Soviet collapse. He was in Brazil because revolutionary Cuba speaks for solidarity with all people. In remarks to the delegates, he gave voice to Jose Marti who said: “the homeland is humanity.” Castro warned of danger to humankind “due to the accelerated and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions.”

Afterwards, the government he led took steps on behalf of its own people. It created the Institute of Meteorology, the Institute of Hydraulic Resources, and networks of environmental agencies. It produced maps: a “Climate Atlas,” a national atlas, and soil and geological maps. In 1993 it created “The National Program for the Environment and Development.” The Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment took shape in 1994. In 1997, Law 81 defined the structure and functioning of centers specializing in environmental work.

Cuba’s Academy of Sciences initiated studies in 1991. The Institute of Meteorology issued two major reports in 1998 and in 2000. After Hurricanes Charley and Ivan in 2004, research efforts intensified. Collective scientific work culminated in a summarizing report released by the Institute of Meteorology in 2014 after three years of work. Titled “Impacts of Climate Change and Measures for Adaptation in Cuba,” the 430-page document contained articles by dozens of authors from 26 Cuban research institutes.

The report surveys climate – change manifestations in Cuba, presents likely climate scenarios “for 2050 and 2100,” evaluates potential effects on various socio-economic sectors, identifies knowledge gaps, and establishes priorities in protecting natural resources. It calls upon the government to develop new capacities and to apply remedial and protective measures in an integrated fashion.


Findings of the report found their way into Cuba’s contribution to the “Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” Commenting on the report, Myrta Kaulard, a United Nations representative assigned to Cuba, observed that, “The team of Cuban experts was capable of achieving equilibrium between the scientific rigor imposed by an investigation of such magnitude and the necessity to explain the anticipated impacts in clear language.”


CITMA head Elba Rosa Pérez on April 25 explained that the “Life Task” endeavor was the fruit of research, experimentation, agricultural innovations, and previous experience with protecting natural systems. She identified three priorities: “preserving lives in the most vulnerable areas,” food security, and tourism.


The plan calls for “strategic actions,” among them: a ban on new home construction in vulnerable coastal areas, adaptation of infrastructure to coastal flooding, adjustment of land use to drought and salt water contamination, and new farming methods.


Projects under Life Task will include : crop diversification; development of heat-resistant plant varieties; protection of urban infrastructure and dwellings; rebuilding of urban sea fronts; relocation of homes; restoration of protective eco-systems such as beaches, coral reefs, and mangrove swamps; improved engineering and hydraulic infrastructure for coastal regions; enhanced water availability; and reforestation to protect soil and water sources.

All in all, Cuba’s preparations for meeting threats on the way from climate change have been persistent and comprehensive; planners relied on ample human resources and full government support.

In the United States, the Obama administration did issue executive orders in 2013 relating to carbon pollution, adverse climate – change effects, and U. S. international leadership. The Trump administration brushed them away. Despite popular mobilizations and despite former Vice President Al Gore’s educational efforts – after he left office – the U. S. approach to climate has no overarching strategy or plan, and includes no significant legislation. Discussion in the United States centers on placating special interests.

Fidel Castro’s remarks in 1992 in Brazil foreshadowed the tension that would come later between two opposed ways of dealing with climate change. People in wealthy nations, he said, enjoy “lifestyles and consumer habits that ruin the environment; … consumer societies are chiefly responsible for this appalling environmental destruction.”

Castro was referring to the flow of wealth from poor to rich nations. He suggested implicitly that that acquisitiveness and production hikes go together in those societies. Industrialized nations, he emphasized, “have saturated the atmosphere with gases, altering climatic conditions with the catastrophic effects we are already beginning to suffer.” Today we realize that production expands in tandem with unlimited energy sources, until now fossil fuels. So carbon emissions increase, and global warming accentuates.

“Make human life more rational,” Castro insisted. “Adopt a just international economic order. Use science to achieve sustainable development without pollution. Pay the ecological debt. Eradicate hunger and not humanity.” He was saying, in effect, that privilege in the industrialized countries depends on subjugation of the world’s majority population to poverty and suffering.

The entire line of reasoning, from Castro in 1992 to what we know now, reveals the imperialist and exploitative underpinnings of the prevailing approach to climate change. The link between climate change and capitalist modes of living and producing is also readily apparent.

Socialist Cuba has long resisted big – power pretentions and long defended working people against capitalist exploitation. In responding to climate change, aggravated by capitalism, Cuba had the right tools at hand, those well – used ones that are essential for moving toward a socialist society. Cuba elaborated a plan, and did so collectively. Planners looked at realities, subjecting them to scientific study. Plans for which a socialist state is responsible serve the good of all. They don’t allow for accumulation or profiteering. These devices aren’t complicated.

Maybe, as suggested by Karl Marx, peoples imbued with socialist values are, on that account, respectful of nature. If so, perhaps they are uniquely qualified to defend against climate change. In his German Ideology, Marx wrote that, “The restricted attitude of men to nature determines their restricted relation to one another, and their restricted attitude to one another determines men’s restricted relation to nature.”

Cuban President Fidel Castro’s speech at the Rio Earth Summit on June 12, 1992

An important biological species — humankind — is at risk of disappearing due to the rapid and progressive elimination of its natural habitat. We are becoming aware of this problem when it is almost too late to prevent it. It must be said that consumer societies are chiefly responsible for this appalling environmental destruction.

They were spawned by the former colonial metropolis. They are the offspring of imperial policies which, in turn, brought forth the backwardness and poverty that have become the scourge for the great majority of humankind.

With only 20% of the world’s population, they consume two-thirds of all metals and three-fourths of the energy produced worldwide. They have poisoned the seas and the rivers. They have polluted the air. They have weakened and perforated the ozone layer. They have saturated the atmosphere with gases, altering climatic conditions with the catastrophic effects we are already beginning to suffer.

The forests are disappearing. The deserts are expanding. Billions of tons of fertile soil are washed every year into the sea. Numerous species are becoming extinct. Population pressures and poverty lead to desperate efforts to survive, even at the expense of nature. Third World countries, yesterday’s colonies and today nations exploited and plundered by an unjust international economic order, cannot be blamed for all this.

The solution cannot be to prevent the development of those who need it the most. Because today, everything that contributes to underdevelopment and poverty is a flagrant rape of the environment.

As a result, tens of millions of men, women and children die every year in the Third World, more than in each of the two world wars.

Unequal trade, protectionism and the foreign debt assault the ecological balance and promote the destruction of the environment. If we want to save humanity from this self-destruction, wealth and available technologies must be distributed better throughout the planet. Less luxury and less waste in a few countries would mean less poverty and hunger in much of the world.

Stop transferring to the Third World lifestyles and consumer habits that ruin the environment. Make human life more rational. Adopt a just international economic order. Use science to achieve sustainable development without pollution. Pay the ecological debt. Eradicate hunger and not humanity.

Now that the supposed threat of communism has disappeared and there is no more pretext to wage cold wars or continue the arms race and military spending, what then is preventing these resources from going immediately to promote Third World development and fight the ecological destruction threatening the planet?

Enough of selfishness. Enough of schemes of domination. Enough of insensitivity, irresponsibility and deceit. Tomorrow will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.



Coltan: What You Should Know
worker | May 19, 2017 | 7:04 pm | Announcements, Economy, environmental crisis | Comments closed

What is Coltan?
Coltan is short for Columbite-tantalite – a black tar-like mineral found in major quantities in the Congo.. The Congo possesses 80 percent of the world’s coltan. When coltan is refined it becomes a heat resistant powder that can hold a high electric charge. The properties of refined coltan is a vital element in creating devices that store energy or capacitors, which are used in a vast array of small electronic devices, especially in mobile phones, laptop computers, pagers, and other electronic devices.

Who are the primary exploiters of Coltan in the Congo?
Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and their proxy militias are the primary exploiters of coltan in the Congo. In an 18 month period Rwanda made $250 million as a result of exploitation of coltan in the Congo. Although Rwanda and Uganda possess little or no coltan, during the period of the war in the Congo, their exports escalated exponentially. For example, Rwanda’s coltan export went from less than 50 tons in 1995 to almost 250 tons in 1998. Zero cassiterite was transported from the Congo to Uganda in 1998, however by 2000 151 drums were transported.

The United Nations notes in its 2001 report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources in the congo that “The consequences of illegal exploitation has been twofold: (a)massive availability of financial resources for the Rwandan Patriotic Army, and the individual enrichment of top Ugandan military commanders and civilians; (b) the emergence of of illegal networks headed by either top military officers or businessmen.”

Foreign Corporate exploitation
Although the countries mentioned above directly exploit coltan, foreign multi-national corporations have been deeply involved in the exploitation of coltan in the Congo. The coltan mined by rebels and foreign forces is sold to foreign corporations. Although, the United Nations in its reports on the Congo do not directly blame the multi-national corporations for the conflict in the Congo, the United Nations does say that these companies serve as “the engine of the conflict in the DRC.

Major United States players include:
Cabot Corporation, Boston, MA
OM Group, Cleveland, Ohio
AVX, Myrtle Beach, SC
Eagle Wings Resources International, Ohio
Trinitech International, Ohio
Kemet Electronics Corporation, Greenville, SC
Vishay Sprague. Malvern, PA

Corporations from other countries have been a part of the coltan exploitation chain. These companies include but are not limited to Germany’s HC Starc and EPCOS, China’s Nigncxia, and Belgium’s George Forrest International.

Once the coltan is processed and converted to capacitors, it is then sold to companies such as Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Alcatel, Dell, Hewlett-Packard , IBM, Lucent, Ericsson and Sony for use in a wide assortment of everyday products ranging from cell phones to computer chips and game consoles.

What are some of the uses of coltan in modern society?
• Laptop computers
• Cellular phones
• Jet engines
• Rockets
• Cutting tools
• Camera lenses
• X-ray film
• Ink jet printers
• Hearing aids
• Pacemakers
• Airbag protection systems
• Ignition and motor control modules, GPS, ABS systems in automobiles
• Game consoles such as playstation, xbox and nintendo
• Video cameras
• Digital still cameras
• Sputtering targets
• Chemical process equipment
• Cathodic protection systems for steel structures such as bridges, water tanks
• Prosthetic devices for humans – hips, plates in the skull, also mesh to repair bone removed after damage by cancer
• Suture clips
• Corrosion resistant fasteners, screws, nuts, bolts
• High temperature furnace parts.
• High temperature alloys for air and land based turbines

Links and Resources
Coltan Wiki Facts
Guns, Money and Cell Phones
United Nations Coltan Primer
Congo’s Coltan Rush!
POLE Institute Report “The Coltan Phenomenon!” (PDF)
Columbium and Tantulum: US Geological Survey (PDF)
“Stolen Goods: Coltan and Conflict …” by Dana Montague (PDF)

More Against Trump: Huge Climate Change Marches Against President’s Policies
worker | April 29, 2017 | 4:12 pm | Analysis, Climate Change, Donald Trump, environmental crisis, political struggle | Comments closed
Demonstrators sit on the ground along Pennsylvania Ave. in front of the White House in Washington, Saturday, April 29, 2017, during a demonstration and march.

More Against Trump: Huge Climate Change Marches Against President’s Policies

© AP Photo/ Pablo Martinez Monsivais

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People’s Climate Marches are taking place in Washington, DC, and hundreds of other locations around the globe today, one more action in an ongoing series of responses to the environmental policies of US President Donald Trump.

Coinciding with Trump’s 100th day in office, the global event, an offshoot of the 2014 global climate change march — the largest in history — is centered around the march in Washington DC, where some 200,000 marchers have taken to the streets as temperatures hover in the mid-90s.With luminaries including former US Vice President Al Gore, billionaire aerospace leader Richard Branson and Hollywood superstar Leonardo Dicaprio in attendance, the protests are seen as a continuation of the current increase in popular activism in the wake of Trump’s election.

Including heavily attended events such as the Women’s March in January and the March for Science last week — as well as multiple protests at airports to fight the Trump administration’s immigration travel ban — the level of popular activism in response to the policies of Trump’s administration is unusual, and perhaps unprecedented.

In what is considered to be the most divisive US presidency in modern times, Trump’s administration in just its first 100 days has quickly rolled back newly implemented Environmental Protection Agency regulations regarding the use of fossil fuels, including coal, and introduced sweeping budget cuts. Trump also approved the hotly-disputed Keystone XL pipeline, which the administration of US President Barack Obama had formerly blocked.

Trump is undoing everything Obama did. He doesn’t realize climate change impacts everyone. It impacts him. Change is inevitable, and only we can solve it — the impact is just changing the way we live,” said a marcher, according to CNN.

Although official tallies are not currently available, police put the number in the hundreds of thousands in Washington, DC, and in cities across the globe, tens of thousands more are said to be participating.

Africa/Global: Scaling Up Solar
worker | March 21, 2017 | 8:12 pm | Africa, environmental crisis | Comments closed

Africa/Global: Scaling Up Solar

AfricaFocus Bulletin
March 21, 2017 (170321)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

Even in the United States, where action on climate change is under
aggressive assault by climate deniers in the Trump
administration and Congress, renewable energy is projected to
continue to advance rapidly, on the basis of its still rapidly
growing cost advantages over fossil fuels. According to a report
just released by GTM research, the US total solar market, already
supplying the largest share of new power production, is poised to
triple over the next five years. The prospect for renewable energy
to power increased access to electricity in Africa is also dramatic,
according to a new report from the Africa Progress Panel.

For a version of this Bulletin in html format, more suitable for
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click on “format for print or mobile.”

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In both developed countries and in regions where hundreds of
millions lack any access at all to electricity, the technical
capacity for rapid massive expansion of renewable energy supplies
has already been demonstrated. Scaling up, however, requires
financial innovation as well, and that still depends in large part
on public policy as well as private sector financing. Fortunately,
in Africa as well as at the global level, recognition of the
potential benefits is growing almost as fast as technical

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains opening remarks by Kofi Annan on
the launch of a new report by the Africa Progress Panel: “Lights,
Power, Action: Electrifying Africa.” The full report stresses the
central role of off-grid and mini-grid systems in providing access
to electricity for the estimated 620 million Africans currently
without such access. The report, too long and complexly formatted to
be excerpted here, is available in pdf format (

While acknowledging the role of extending the grid and some
continued reliance on large-scale power-production projects, the
report’s emphasis is the demonstrable untapped potential for scaling
up both small-scale household systems and community-level mini-
grids, both of which have been demonstrated in practice as cost-

Also included is the executive summary of a World Resources
Institute study published in December 2016, focusing particularly on
the remarkable success and even-greater potential of “pay-as-you-go”
solar systems, using the case studies of Kenya and Tanzania. The
principal obstacle to scaling up, the study concludes, is not
technical but rather financial. New forms of financing and seed
funds have enormous potential for expansion.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate change and energy,

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Opening remarks by Kofi Annan, Chair of the Africa Progress Panel,
at the launch of “Lights, Power, Action: Electrifying Africa” in
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire on 13 March 2017.

Africa Progress Panel

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be with you in Abidjan this morning.

Achieving universal access to modern energy is critical to Africa’s

The Africa Progress Panel, which I chair, welcomes the opportunity
to collaborate with the African Development Bank and other key
stakeholders in pushing for the changes we need to see.

It was in that spirit that I gladly accepted President Adesina’s
invitation last year to serve as a lead champion of the New Deal on
Energy in Africa. His leadership in positioning the AfDB at the
forefront of the New Deal process is precisely what is needed to
change the game for Africa.

The Africa Progress Panel first drew attention to the need for
bolder action to electrify Africa faster in our 2015 Report: “Power,
People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate opportunities”.
Two years later, this need remains as urgent as ever.

Nearly two-thirds of Africans – 620 million people – still do not
have access to “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern
electricity”, the energy goal that is central to Agenda 2030.

Africa’s energy deficit continues to stifle economic growth, job
creation, agricultural transformation, and improvements in health
and education. Meeting Sustainable Development Goal 7, the energy
goal, is a pre-condition for achieving many of the other goals.

The good news is that we are no longer in the dark, so to speak,
about how to tackle this challenge.

In several countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and South
Africa, renewable energy makes up an increasingly important share of
national power generation.

There are also a number of promising initiatives aimed at providing
electricity across borders, mostly drawing on renewable resources
such as solar, wind and hydro power.

We now need to see more of them deployed at far greater scale to
bring power and light to Africans who still lack modern energy.

That is the core message of the APP’s new report, Lights, Power,
Action: Electrifying Africa, which is launched today.

Traditional approaches to extending the grid are no longer viable as
the main option for African countries. They take too long and do not
meet the needs of our growing economies and societies. Instead,
governments and their partners need to re-imagine their energy

We are not saying countries should immediately stop using fossil
fuels and switch to renewable sources of energy. As our report
clearly states, the cost of transitioning to renewables may be
prohibitively high in the short term – especially for countries that
use their sizeable endowments of coal and other fossil fuels to
generate energy.

What we are advocating is that African governments harness every
available energy option, so that no one is left behind. Each country
needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically
efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.

To meeting rapidly growing demand, that energy mix will gradually
progress towards greater use of off-grid household systems and mini-
grids. It should also lead to the emergence of more flexible, hybrid
national energy systems that link grids to off-grid generation.

Mobile phone technology has already helped Africa to leapfrog over
conventional technology and to improve financial and social
inclusion. In the same way, we foresee that innovation will bring
millions of Africans into the energy loop, leading to better health,
better education, better access to markets, and better jobs.

Off-grid electricity generation used to be regarded in Africa as a
stop-gap measure – a way to power a few lights during the long wait
for a grid connection. In recent years, the number of households
connected to off-grid power has soared, improving millions of lives
while relieving a chronic shortage of power.

Some of these home systems may in future connect to grids through
buy-back schemes, enabling households to earn extra cash from the
power they generate. Such arrangements are already working in
Australia, some parts of Europe and the United States. Overall,
however, policy and regulatory environments in Africa need to
improve considerably to make such linkages reality.

As we document in our new report, off-grid solar products can act as
rungs on an “energy ladder”, providing a range of energy services to
households and enterprises with different energy needs and incomes.

Mini-grids can also offer sustainable permanent alternatives to
connecting to the grid, especially as reliable and affordable
products come on-stream that are attractive to small and medium-
sized enterprises as well as communities operating far from the
national grid.

The agenda is clear and the challenges are well known.

As well as leading the way in promoting wider use of off-grid and
mini-grid technology, African governments must continue to work hard
to transform national energy grids that are often unreliable and
financially fragile.

Many energy utilities are mismanaged and inefficient. A lack of
accountability and transparency in their governance also nurtures

Electricity theft at staggering scale is often the result of this
malpractice; rolling black-outs are the result of mismanagement. All
continue to feed a deep sense of frustration among citizens.

They also highlight why power provision has become a highly
political issue in several countries.

Poor energy governance reflects the wider governance deficit that
threatens to derail development efforts in a number of countries.

So what do African governments and their partners need to do to make
this vision of an empowered Africa a reality?

Africa’s leadership, in both public and private sectors, needs to
step up and champion the “energy for all” agenda.

Governments need to intensify their efforts to put in place
regulatory environments that give the energy sector incentives to
deliver on its transformative potential.

The private sector, African and non-African, should be encouraged to
enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets,
deepen linkages throughout the value chain, and build the investment
partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

While the onus is on African leadership and ownership of this
agenda, Africa’s energy future is also an issue of global relevance.
Although Africa only accounts for a tiny fraction of global
emissions, it wholeheartedly embraced the Paris climate agreement’s
overarching ambition – limiting global warming through unshakeable
and progressive commitment to a low-carbon planet.

The Paris commitment has led the industrialized countries to pledge
billions of dollars to supporting the low carbon transition, in
Africa and elsewhere. However, and as we have repeatedly highlighted
in our reports and our public advocacy, very little of that money is
moving yet.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As our new report shows, where there is good leadership, there are
excellent prospects for energy transition, and leaders in a number
of countries are demonstrating the levels and intensity of political
will needed to address these serious and persistent problems.

We urge governments to put in place the integrated plans and
policies that can scale up Africa’s energy transition. The success
of countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Morocco, Rwanda and
South Africa shows what can be achieved.

Achievements at the national level are essential but only part of
the solution. To fully address the energy challenges, governments
must collaborate more closely on a continental scale. Improved
cross-border power trade is crucial to realising Africa’s energy
potential. Yet less than 8 per cent of power is currently traded
across borders in Sub-Saharan Africa.

There is a glaring need to adopt a more continental approach to
power infrastructure development and management in order to
accelerate regional power integration.

This must involve a greater pooling of electricity resources and
harmonisation of national grids. Massive increases in investment in
regional transmission infrastructure and the development of new
power trading arrangements are also essential.

The ultimate goal should be to interlink Africa’s numerous and
fragmented power initiatives to create a single pan-African power

We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s
energy deficit. Now we must focus on implementation.

The time for excuses is over.

It’s time for action.


Stimulating Pay-As-You-Go Energy Access in Kenya And Tanzania: The
Role of Development Finance

World Resources Institute

Issue Brief

December 2016

Sanjoy Sanyal, Jeffrey Prins, Feli Visco, and Ariel Pinchot

Executive Summary

Nearly 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack electricity
access. Improving access to affordable and reliable energy is
critical to reducing poverty and improving quality of life (IEA
2011). To improve energy access, it is important to develop
financing and payment schemes that fit consumer energy budgets.
“Pay-as-you-go” (PAYG) business models harness technology to provide
a “one-stop-shop” solution for consumer finance and energy products.
The PAYG model originated in Kenya, and addresses the key challenges
of extending end-user finance and collecting payments from remote
customers who often have erratic and limited cash flow. PAYG
companies, at this point, typically provide basic lighting and
mobile phone charging services. The technology can play an important
role in expanding access to electricity services to remote and low-
income populations.

This issue brief draws on findings from desk research, workshops,
and inter views with PAYG companies, donors, and development finance
institutions (DFIs) active in energy access in East Africa to assess
how PAYG companies have stepped up to serve the approximately 35
million people in Kenya and 36 million people in Tanzania who lack
access to electricity, as well as additional millions who are
underserved. Our paper also draws on interviews with stakeholders
involved in Bangladesh’s IDCOL program to provide insight into how
DFIs and donors supported the Bangladesh program, in order to elicit
lessons relevant to the Kenyan and Tanzanian contexts. We chose
Bangladesh’s IDCOL program as a reference point for two reasons: the
energy enterprises in Bangladesh perform the same one-stop-shop role
as the PAYG companies, and IDCOL provides an example of where DFIs
have played a significant role in channeling finance (US$750
million) to achieve substantial energy access goals (three million
solar home systems).

Given the nascent stage of most energy access markets, much of the
existing PAYG literature focuses on analyzing the innovative
variations of business models as well as factors that could improve
the enabling environment. However, market players in both Kenya and
Tanzania have evolved beyond an early-stage pilot phase. These
pioneering companies have successfully raised grant, equity, and–
more recently– debt finance to pilot, develop, and scale their
businesses. According to our estimates, they have reached more than
half a million households through rapid sales growth. The market
overall is also evolving, as suggested by the participation of 52
international private sector investors–ranging from foundations  to
large companies–and five debt deals struck in 2015, the largest of
which was a US$45 million raise by one company. Market leaders such
as M-KOPA, Mobisol, and Off-Grid Electric have begun expanding into
regional markets.

While encouraging progress has been made, the addressable markets in
Kenya and Tanzania are much larger than those reached by existing
companies so far, and the products they offer need to be larger in
capacity if they are to provide more than basic lighting and mobile
charging. PAYG companies will require about one billion dollars
across these two countries to scale for broader impact. Therefore,
this issue brief focuses on how this broader impact can be created.
We look at how successful PAYG businesses operating in Kenya and
Tanzania have raised finance and the constraints faced by the
industry, and we propose recommendations for how donors and DFIs can
continue to support the development of these markets.

Currently, the various types of capital (debt, impact equity
capital, grant) that PAYG companies need are available almost
exclusively from international investors. Local financial
institutions in Kenya and Tanzania have been hesitant to provide
financing to PAYG customers: they perceive PAYG companies as early-
stage, risky businesses and are unfamiliar with the technology as
well as the creditworthiness of rural consumers. The absence of
local capital sources to some extent explains the fact that almost
all the successful PAYG companies are foreign owned and foreign
managed. Local companies often lack the initial resources, as well
as the networks and skills, to raise both early-stage capital and
develop complex financial structures to raise debt capital from
international markets. Local companies are also hesitant to take on
foreign currency risk.

Technological barriers to the PAYG business are falling, and the
sector is likely to see the entry of a larger number of companies.
This is not yet happening, because access to finance remains a key
entry barrier, particularly for locally owned and managed companies.
Finance is most critically needed to build out marketing, sales, and
service infrastructure and to provide customers with financing. The
relative lack of access to finance results in fewer companies and
less competition in the PAYG sector.

DFIs and donors have a role to play in supporting local financial
institutions to extend local currency debt. In Bangladesh,
international DFIs and donors channeled funds for energy access
through IDCOL, a government-owned financial intermediary. IDCOL also
played a strong role in market development. The market support roles
played by IDCOL can be adapted to the Kenyan and Tanzanian contexts.
The debt- financing role in Kenya and Tanzania can be played by
commercial banks from the very beginning. Involving commercial banks
would have the advantage of ensuring that funds are available to the
sector even after donors withdraw. …

Drawing on the success of the IDCOL program and the unique needs of
PAYG companies, we offer recommendations targeted primarily to DFIs
and donors regarding how they can support local financial
institutions in their efforts to expand energy access in Kenya and

* International DFIs and donors can leverage their long relation-
ships with local financial institutions in Kenya and Tanzania to
stimulate local finance for the PAYG sector. DFIs and donors can
provide guarantee schemes and lines of credit to local banks. This
support would help banks develop a deeper understanding and
familiarity with PAYG business models, and make finance more
accessible to local companies. International DFIs and donors can
“crowd in” private sector investment in PAYG by channeling their
investments through fund of funds run by professional impact
investors and incentivize PAYG companies to invest in targeted
marketing and distribution infrastructure through results-based
financing. DFIs and donors can also provide technical assistance to
public organizations to support capacity building in monitoring and

* Local commercial banks can begin to explore the PAYG sec- tor, and
understand company cash flow patterns, through the provision of
short-term trade finance. They can also explore mechanisms such as a
debt ser vice coverage account to partially cover for default risks.

* National governments can provide support through a suite of policy
and regulatory measures to unlock domestic commercial financing for
distributed renewable energy including, for example, the development
of mechanisms to coordinate roles of institutions in this space and
encourage private sector activity by setting clear national
priorities and releasing grid extension plans to the public.

* Private sector investors can help companies to access different
types of capital and partnerships in response to evolving business
needs. This may include support for raising capital from local
commercial banks. Foundations and family offices can provide loss
guarantees to local banks.

* Private sector PAYG businesses can adopt standardized accounting
standards to assist in transactions with local banks.

The scope of this issue brief is confined to analysis of financing
in support of PAYG solar home system companies. While we recognize
that PAYG products providing lower-level energy services are not
comprehensive solutions to the energy access challenge, we believe
that our recommendations will also support the broader energy access
sector, including mini- and micro-grids.


The Imperatives of the Electricity Access Challenge

Nearly 1.3 billion people, or 18 per cent of the world’s population,
still lack access to grid electricity (IEA 2014a). An additional one
billion are “under electrified,” a status charac terized by unstable
grid connection with regular power outages (A.T. Kearney and GOGLA
2014; IEA 2013). Sub-Saharan Africa bears a disproportionate share
of this burden. Over 620 million people, nearly two-thirds of the
region’s population, are without electricity access (IEA 2014b).
Increasing access to afford- able and reliable energy services is
fundamental to reducing poverty and improving other human
development indicators (IEA 2011).

Electricity access has long been measured by the physical connection
of a household to grid electricity or the presence of a nearby
electric pole. This binary definition of electricity access has
increasingly come into question in recent years, because it fails to
capture the quality of electricity services received by end users.
In response, the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance
Program (ESMAP) has developed a multi-tier framework for defining
and measuring levels of energy access. Under this approach, access
to electricity refers to the ability to obtain electricity that is
characterized by the following attributes: “adequate, available when
needed, reliable, of good quality, affordable, legal, convenient,
healthy and safe for all required applications across households,
productive enterprises and community institutions” (Angelou and
Bhatia 2015).

The framework measures electricity access across five tiers; each
tier reflects a specific level of performance of an electricity
supply system defined by the attributes. Tier 1 and Tier 2 are the
low-power capacity levels (minimum 3W and 50W, respectively). At
Tier 1 level, electricity access is defined as providing lighting
and mobile charging for a minimum of four hours per day. At Tier 2
level, access additionally includes the ability to power a fan
and/or television for four hours (see Annex II).

The PAYG businesses that we study in this issue brief provide
electricity access mainly at the Tier 1 and Tier 2 levels through
standalone solar home systems (SHSs). The standalone solar system
comes with a battery, a charge controller, a solar panel and LED
(light emitting diode) bulbs, and a mobile charger. Larger systems
(typically 50W and above) can potentially connect direct current
(DC) appliances such as a television. Even at lower tiers of
electricity access, there are numerous household-level benefits.
These benefits stem from the fact that the SHSs replace alternate
sources, which are often very expensive.

Previous WRI research conducted in collaboration with the
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis indicates that
household kerosene use is significantly lower for house- holds with
SHSs, even when compared with grid customers. While 80 percent of
households with access to grid electricity continue to use kerosene,
only about 25 percent of homes with SHSs use kerosene. The
reliability of SHS electricity supply may explain this finding (Rao,
Agarwal, and Wood 2016). Other research indicates benefits such as
prevention of GHG emissions (both carbon dioxide and black soot)
(Kaufman et al. 2000; Wang et al. 2011), increased household
disposable income because of reduced spending on kerosene and
candles (Mills 2005; Tracy and Jacobson 2012), health benefits such
as reduced accidents and indoor pollution (Mills 2014; Samad et al.
2013) and social benefits such as increased evening study hours for
children (A.T. Kearney and GOGLA 2014; Khan and Azad 2014; Samad et
al. 2013).

The Importance of “Pay-as- You-Go” (PAYG)

Previous WRI research has underscored the importance of designing
financing and payment schemes that fit consumer energy budgets. The
research notes that energy enterprises have to design innovative
financing and payment schemes to encourage consumers to purchase
their products, because customers are accustomed to buying energy in
small increments (Ballesteros et al. 2013). …

PAYG is a technology-driven method that allows consumers to pay the
lease amount for a given energy system or pay a fee for the service
of using the system. It uses information technology to enable remote
activation with payment receipt (Alstone et al. 2015). PAYG includes
a range of business models, which differ as to how payments are
accepted and to whom the ownership of the system ultimately
devolves. From the consumer’s point of view, the PAYG model offers a
one-stop shop, where the product and the financing are available
from the same source. The willingness of companies to finance
products gives customers confidence in the new technology. Indeed,
energy companies have tried to partner with microfinance
institutions (MFIs) but often with limited success. The energy
service companies have typically been smaller than their counterpart
MFIs, and partnerships have been hard to manage given the differing
expectations of the two parties. In Kenya, for example, consumers
could not access technical maintenance services from the energy
companies, which were limited in their geographic outreach. The poor
after-sales service left many customers dissatisfied with their
products, which in turn led to a refusal to repay loans (Rolffs,
Byrne, and Ockwell 2014).

The benefits of the PAYG model in providing a one-stop-shop solution
to customers are several. As we have already noted, the offer of
finance by the energy company instills trust in consumers regarding
the quality of the product. Operational efficiency is improved
because there is no need for coordination between finance providers
and technology providers. With PAYG, the companies are able to
provide longer-term loans than those usually offered by MFIs. PAYG
models also allow the provision of relatively large credit amounts
(to cover the cost of the renewable energy system) to consumers
whose credit worthiness may be unknown. The credit risk is partially
mitigated by the incentive system that links payments to service
provision. PAYG approaches, which use mobile communication
technologies, also reduce the costs associated with collecting
repayments (Rolffs, Byrne, and Ockwell 2014). Finally, PAYG enables
significant data collection. This gives enterprises the advantage of
understanding product performance and consumer behavior (Alstone et
al. 2015).


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