A solar future for Kenya's youth?

AuthorBlock, Ben

Frederick Ouko left western Kenya when he was 20, in search of a college education. Unemployed, he moved to the capital city of Nairobi and settled in Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa. Basic services such as electricity, water, and sanitation are scarce there. As much as 45 percent of the population lacks a job and 80 percent of residents aged 15 to 35 are unemployed, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

Ouko received a diploma in business communication technology, a rare accomplishment. But instead of leaving the slums, he founded the Kibera Youth Community Programme to provide alternatives to drug abuse and crime. To fund some of the projects, Ouko turned to solar power.

Ouko employs 16 local youths to manufacture handheld solar devices, which they sell throughout Nairobi and in the countryside. The devices, purchased through the UK group BioDesign and sold for the equivalent of US$24 on average, are used mainly to power mobile phones or radios. "Some [of the employees] are out of school, still trying to figure out what to do," Ouko said. "Now they have an option for income, and they can ... benefit from the skills of their training."

According to a 2007...

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