Smart Villages News 152 – Energy, health and leapfrogging in Africa

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Dear Subscriber,

While the Smart Villages Initiative is delighted to be quoted in this week’s Economist article on energy leapfrogging in Africa, there are a noteworthy number of articles this week about energising health provision as well.

In a city or town, the obvious thing to do if somebody gets sick is for them to go and see a doctor, perhaps in a hospital, although of course affordability of healthcare remains a global problem. Getting sick in a rural area, or simply needing medical help (for example, during childbirth) is much worse, because it often means that there is no doctor or medical facility nearby. Just to travel to a place with a clinic may require a significant investment in time and money, and this situation leads to a terrible dilemma. This cost could be economically crippling to the household and increase its vulnerability to other adversities, but the alternative may be losing a loved one to something that may have been preventable and/or treatable. Over 400 million people lack access to essential health services, particularly in rural areas. Yet, everybody agrees access to primary healthcare is a basic human right.

The provision of healthcare in rural areas in developing countries faces several problems, which include lack of basic infrastructure, such as roads, electricity, clean water and sanitation; limited education; and the fact that medical professionals, in particular advanced practitioners, tend to concentrate in urban centres. One strategy often pursued by governments is to deploy community health workers, or enlist self-help groups (such as women’s groups in this example in Ethiopia), which can be an effective way of sharing information on how to prevent infectious diseases, improve mother and child’s health and reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases. Critically, impact requires simultaneously targeting other underlying causes of poor health, for example, low agricultural productivity (linked to poverty) and inadequate child nutrition, and lack of sanitation. In other words, what is needed are increased investments in rural development and effective reforms.

Having no access to electricity affects health provision at multiple levels: from the obvious problems that result from the lack of light during night time births and the inability to keep vaccines and medicines cold, to the difficulty of attracting and keeping health professionals in off-grid areas. On the other hand, innovations in eHealth -healthcare provision enabled by electronic processes and communication – are revolutionising the sector. We feature three news items on this topic this week.

The first is press release of the Cooperation Agreement between the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which was signed in Geneva at the end of last month, to use digital services for saving lives and improving people’s health. The second news article describes how telemedicine and artificial intelligence have enabled health tech platforms to emerge in Africa, a continent where many countries have less than one physician per 10,000 people. While it would be easier to suppose that most innovations rely on mobile phone technology, the third news article featured today contradicts this assumption. According to the Exploring the African E-health Startup Ecosystem Report 2017, released by Disrupt Africa, 115 e-health startups are currently operating in 20 countries across the continent. Of these, only 44% reach their customers by using mobile phones.

Top Stories

Dakar Workshop
Africa Might Leapfrog Straight To Cheap Renewable Electricity And Minigrids
WHEN SATELLITES TRAIN their cameras onto Africa at night, it is almost as if they are peering back to an age before electricity. The rich world is awash with great glowing orbs for the main population centres and orange tentacles for the roads that link them. But apart from speckles of light around the biggest cities, much of Africa is dark. […]

Economist (09.11.17)

WHO And ITU To Use Digital Technology To Strengthen Public Health Services In Africa
With Africa currently undergoing a digital revolution, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) today signed a Cooperation Agreement in Geneva, on using digital services to save lives and improve people’s health. […]

Reliefweb (26.10.17)

How AI Can Help Africa Get Universal Health Care Before America
While American politicians quarrel over the Affordable Care Act, the United States—one of the few industrialized countries without universal health care—still spends twice as much per person per year on health expenses as the U.K. and Canada. For all the debates over Obamacare, however, America boasts 38 MRI machines per one million people: Nigeria, a country of 180 million people, has only four. Across Africa, the ratio of doctors to patients is painfully low. The continent accounts for 25 percent of global disease cases, but has only 2-3 percent of the doctors in the world. […]

Adebayo Alonge – Newsweek (30.10.17)

African E-Health Startups Multiply But Shun Mobile
The number of e-health startups active in Africa is accelerating continent-wide, but contrary to popular assumptions the majority of these ventures do not leverage mobile phones.According to the High Tech Health: Exploring the African E-health Startup Ecosystem Report 2017, released by Disrupt Africa today, 115 e-health startups are currently operating in 20 countries across Africa. […]

Gabriella Mulligan – DisruptAfrica (23.10.17)


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Nigeria: Investment Firm Invests In Off-Grid Energy Business Models
Esi-Africa (17.11.17)Cameroon Solar Scheme With Huawei Globally Lauded
Rosy Sadou – CajNewsAfricaElectricity Spurs Economic Growth
Choolwe Kasamu – Daily-mail (17.11.17)Unlocking An Energy Revolution In Ethiopia With Lessons From The Black Market
Mohit Anand – Greentechmedia (16.11.17)African Governments And Off-Grid Energy Industry Take Steps To Accelerate Progress Towards Universal Energy Access
allAfrica (16.11.17)

Off-Grid Solar Startup Expands To Ivory Coast
Asaf Shalev – Calcalitech (15.11.17)


Acciona To Take Power To Off-Grid Mexican Villages
The Construction Index (17.11.17)Solar Energy ‘Like Light From Heaven’ For Rural Nicaragua
Margaret Ward – IrishTimes (13.11.17)

After The Storms, It’s Microgrid Season In The Caribbean
Cassandra Sweet – Greenbiz (15.11.17)

SDGs and Global Development

Turning Up The Volume: Five Insights Into Aggregating Finance For Expanding Off Grid Energy Investment
Clare Shakya, Rebecca Byrnes – iied (03.11.17)COP23 Side Events Address Leadership Of Island States, Clean Energy Access For Women: 15 November Highlights
Leila Mail – sdg iisd (15.11.17)

Keeping One Billion People In The Dark Costs Poor Countries Dear: Study
Megan Rowling – Reuters (16.11.17)

Science & Technology

CNREC Advises Reform And Increased Re Targets In China
Mark Hutchins – Pv-Magazine (10.11.17)Battery Boom Hears Off-Grid Demand: BYD 
EcogenerationDistributed Disruptions In The Energy Sector
François Austin – BrinkNews (16.11.17)Filipino-French Joint Venture Optimistic On San Bernandino Strait Tidal Project
Alena Mae S. Flores – ManilaStandard (13.11.17)


Centre Launches Online Portal For Real-Time Monitoring Of Household Electrification
Anupama Airy – SwarajyaChildren Take To The Palette To Promote Energy Conservation
TheHindu (17.11.17)

Seven Golaghat District Villages Provided Solar Lights By NRL 

Kumar Urges Developed Nations To Earmark Aid For Solar Energy
IndiaToday (14.11.17)

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