Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation on Tuesday announced a US$5 million investment in an artsy-looking solar-powered lamp designed for use in off-grid populations in Africa.
The lamp, called Little Sun, provides clear, affordable energy to places dependent on costly and toxic kerosene lighting in sub-Saharan Africa, said Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charity of the billionaire businessman.
The foundation said it would provide a low-interest rate loan to help the business grow.
“Too many families are forced to breathe in toxic kerosene fumes because they don’t have access to electricity,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “Little Sun is bringing clean, safe, affordable light to people who don’t have it today.”
The portable lamp, created by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, lasts two to three years before needing a new battery.
The Little Sun company said it could save households as much as 90 percent over three years compared with what they spend on kerosene.
“Today, seven out of 10 people lack access to even the most basic electricity in Sub-Suharan Africa,” said Little Sun managing director and chief executive Felix Hallwachs. “Over the next 20 years, Africa is poised to hold the world’s largest unelectrified population.”
He said breathing kerosene fumes for four hours is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes.
The lamp is currently available in Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The Little Sun project was launched in 2012 at the Tate Modern museum in London. Consumers in the US and Europe also can buy Little Sun at some museums and stores.
“With a Little Sun in your hand, you become a power station, charging your lamp in the sun, you also empower yourself,” Eliasson said.