As of 2014, only 45 percent of Africa’s population had access to power supply, according to World Energy Outlook. A World Bank report puts the figure at 46.9. An analysis of WEO’s figure shows that 71 percent of the continent’s population had access to power while a paltry 28 percent of its rural dwellers could access power.
In another study published in 2016, Afrobarometer said only 2 in 5 persons could boast of reliable power supply throughout the day. This implies that about 600 million persons, the bulk of who reside in rural locations, on the continent are in need of steady power supply, International Energy Agency said.
This seemingly intractable problem is the bane of Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria. While in smaller countries such as Burundi, Chad, Liberia, Malawi and South Sudan, less than 10 percent of the population can boast of power.
But the impact of the limited access to power can be mitigated in a way that even Africa’s rural population, currently underserved, can gain from the benefits that come with having steady power. It is in this area that China’s Hanergy Group, a pioneering multinational clean energy company, through its CSR, is aiming to provide African homes with a solar-powered umbrella dubbed “Humbrella”. The company is donating units of the devices worth US$160,000 to Africa through the China NGO Network for International Exchange.
Combining the world’s highest conversion efficiency thin-film solar panels with the common umbrella, the Humbrella integrates four functions including off-grid power supply, electricity storage, night lighting and terminal charging. It has a diameter of 2.7 meters and weighs only 8.8 kilograms due to Hanergy’s amazingly light and flexible thin-film solar panels.
“It is an honour for us to be able to use our unique mobile energy and thin-film solar capabilities to contribute to public welfare in Africa,” says the chief executive officer of Hanergy Li Hejun at the launching of the programme on in 2017 at the Hanergy Renewable Energy Exhibition Centre in Beijing, China. The launching was witnessed by ambassadors from 22 African countries, representatives of 8 NGOs and 10 multinational firms and stakeholders.
The Humbrella launch event also saw the establishment of Hanergy’s public welfare initiative, the “Lighting Africa Foundation.”
“We hope that the Humbrella will light up the lives of many Africans and open up new possibilities for the future of African development,” Hejun adds.
Since 2009, Hanergy has been working on thin-film solar power research and development. It is also launching a series of products including solar roof tiles, foldable solar-paper power bank, solar backpack, Building Integrated Photovoltaics, solar roads and many others.
Its CSR in African countries such as Senegal is at the core of its vision of providing the world with a clean energy solution for a better life and sustainable world. And because Humbrella has zero emission, it is a more viable substitute to power generators which are commonly used in Nigeria.
The Humbrella offers a practical solution to this problem by converting sunshine and storing as much as 40000 mAh electricity, ensuring a 10-hour high-quality reading time for children, or charging more than 10 3000mAh smartphones. In addition to lighting, the Humbrella is equipped with 4 USB ports, to which lamps, small fans or electric insect repellent can be plugged.
Moreover, the device can work on cloudy days when there is little or no sunlight, says An Rongbang, the president of Hanergy Global Application Product Development Center.
He says, “Under the weak light our solar panel can still work. If there is a cloudy day, still there is light outside but the amount of electricity will reduce but still be produced. At the same time, if you want to use huge electricity, both solar panel and the stored battery will work together.”