Transitioning to clean, energy-efficient LED lighting in Africa is an opportunity to protect both human and environmental health, while simultaneously stimulating economic and industry growth.
Leading the Global Transition to LED Lighting
In May 2021, the Africa region proposed an amendment that would accelerate the transition to energy-efficient, mercury-free lighting through the Minamata Convention on Mercury. If adopted, this amendment will safeguard public health, ease the demand on increasingly strained national grids, and stimulate local economic growth.
LEDs Mitigate Risk of Environmental Dumping in Africa
Currently, the Africa lighting market is hugely under-regulated, making it a hot-spot for possible environmental dumping as wealthier countries phase out mercury lighting products. With no systems in place for proper disposal of end-of-life fluorescents, bulbs are disposed of with general waste, where due to their fragility, they easily break and disperse mercury vapor into the environment.
Fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, a known pollutant. At the end of life, fluorescents are discarded in the general waste stream where due to their fragility, they break releasing mercury into the environment. The Global E-Waste Monitor 2020 found that the percentage of collected and properly recycled e-waste was at 4% in Southern Africa, 1.3% in Eastern Africa, and close to 0% in other regions. By proposing a global phase-out of fluorescents, the region is laying the groundwork to prevent dumping from more regulated markets in developed countries in order to reduce environmental pollution and protect consumers.
LED products last 2-3 times longer than fluorescents reducing the waste from industries and homes.
LEDs Save African People & Governments Money
The transition to LEDs benefits players across the energy supply chain, from manufacturers to consumers. People and businesses that replace fluorescents with the same LED lamps will experience reduced electricity bills, as LEDs consume up to 50% less energy. Transitioning to more energy-efficient LEDs also reduces the burden on national grids across sub-Saharan Africa, a region where most countries are undergoing intermittent energy cuts and rampant load shedding.
African Lighting Amendment Aligns with Economic Growth Efforts
The proposed Amendment aligns with regional efforts to stimulate economic growth, increase employment rates and reduce reliance on lighting product importation. As an import-based market for fluorescents, phasing out these mercury-containing lamps would encourage local manufacturing of LEDs, in turn stimulating local economic growth, generating jobs, while protecting citizens from inefficient, toxic lighting products.
Transitioning to LED light bulbs will lead to an increase in new LED manufacturing firms to meet the demand. Already, new LED companies are coming up across the region, notably in South Africa, Rwanda and Botswana.
With harmonized lighting regulations and investment in new LED businesses across the continent, Africa can supply its own growing demand for energy-efficient lighting products.
SPOTLIGHT: SAHASRA RWANDA
Sahasra Rwanda, which began manufacturing "Made In Rwanda" LED bulbs in 2016, has transformed the lighting landscape in the country to energy-efficient, environmentally friendly lighting products. By creating jobs, generating exports and giving momentum to locally made and sourced Rwandese products, Sahasra is helping Rwanda become more self-reliant and self-sustaining.
Sahasra products meet a range of lighting needs in the country, lighting up banks, shopping malls, government buildings, warehouses, industries, schools, hospitals and streets. As the pioneer LED manufacturing firm in Rwanda, Sahasra Rwanda has a 2-year instant replacement on all their products, taking the burden of replacement cost from the customers.
Transitioning to inexpensive, energy-efficient LED retrofit lighting is not only smart, but it is also environmentally friendly and inevitable. We see it here in Ghana and across Africa. Under the Minamata Convention, the world has a unique opportunity to accelerate this transition to LED by removing exemptions for fluorescent lighting which contain hazardous mercury.Kofi A. Agyarko, Director, Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, & Climate Change