Powering Africa Out of Poverty: ICT and Renewable Energy

July 1, 2013

In Songambele, Tanzania, our work has provided power which is being used to feed, educate and offer new opportunities to, the community as a whole. In the last of our Global Wind Day case studies, we tell the story of Ritha Haule, who has taken the opportunity to use ICT training to develop a strong business…

RITHA Haule and her colleagues were stuck: their office had been given a computer, but none of them had ever used one before, and they were unable to use it.

It’s a problem that few of us – certainly few of us reading this online – in the ‘developed world’ will ever have come across. We may know someone who has had too little money to buy a computer, but few of us would be unable to use one if it was given to us.

But in Songambele, Tanzania, as in many remote communities in the developing world, not only did people have no access to computers, or to training in how to use them, they often didn’t even have access to the power needed to switch them on.

And that’s why we’re there to help…

At Renewable World, we work to provide power through renewable resources to remote, off-grid communities. We do so because we know that access to power is also access to the means by which people can bridge the poverty gap, improve health, education, training, opportunities and incomes.

In short, the means by which people can help themselves.

Songambele, 97km from the Tanzanian capital Dodoma, is a community of 27,000 in a state in which roughly 80 per cent of the population relies on agriculture to survive.

Its citizens had few options other than to grow food, while attempting to combat the results of climate change, which threatens crop production, as well as a lack of information which often meant the food which was produced ended up being undersold at market, losing the community vital income.

But with partners ALIN, we at Renewable World are powering a centre, powered by wind and solar energy, which offers Songambele’s youngsters and adults the chance to build a better future.

The Maarifa Centre is a community hub, which includes library and information services – helping to improve education, health and crop production – as well as five internet-capable computers.

Since it opened its doors, it has provided ITC training to 48 young people and adults (a third 24-strong ‘cohort’ is currently being trained) with a waiting list reflecting the interest levels within the community.

The training, in a series of programmes, is designed to give people knowledge they can use to develop new means of earning money, making their income streams more diverse and therefore less vulnerable to ‘attack’ or failure from single sources.

Ritha is one person for whom the training has already worked. She took part in the second training course, and used the skills she learned to build up a stationery business she and her husband have opened in Songambele.

She uses her computer skills to take orders, order stock, advertise her business and create printed materials for customers.

Her work is also benefitting the wider community’s public services, as she has already typed and printed exam papers for Songambele’s primary and secondary schools.

Her future plans include investing the money she has made using her new skills to open more stationery stores in nearby communities, which are also in need.

She said: ‘The computer training I have received has made a difference to my life, my business and my community. Now, I hope to help others in the same way.’

The work we do is helping people in several parts of the world. But to continue doing what we do, we need your help: find out how to donate here.