From the dunes of Dubai to the soil of the Moon

From the dunes of Dubai to the soil of the Moon

to celebrate its independence and setting up, the United Arab Emirates is toying with expediting a vehicle  From the dunes of Dubai to the soil of the Moon.  Why not? Let us read this story from Gulf News of today.

 


UAE@51: From the dunes of Dubai to the soil of the Moon, Rashid Rover all set to make history

All you need to know about the UAE’s lunar mission that will take off on November 30



From the dunes of Dubai to the soil of the Moon

Rashid Rover’s core scientific mission is to better understand how lunar dust and rocks vary across the moon.Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: In what is a huge feat ahead of the 51st UAE National Day, Emirati-made Rashid Rover will shoot to the Moon on Wednesday, November 30, at 12.39pm (Gulf Standard Time), carrying with it the pride and dreams of the UAE — and the entire Arab world.

From the desert dunes of the UAE to the soil of the Moon, the lunar rover — named after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, builder of modern Dubai — will give mankind and the global scientific community more knowledge about Earth’s closest celestial neighbour.

It will land on Atlas Crater, located at 47.5°N, 44.4°E on the Moon’s southeastern outer edge of Mare Frigoris (Sea of Cold), and from there capture photos and collect information of the unexplored crater area and the vast basins on Moon’s surface that were formed billions of years ago.

20220616 rashid rover
Rashid Rover will study the characteristics of lunar soil, the petrography (composition and properties of lunar rocks) and geology of the Moon. It will also take photos of the moon’s dust movement, surface plasma conditions, and the lunar regolith (blanket of superficial deposits covering solid rocks).Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The UAE’s moonshot has lofty goals. According to Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC),“Rashid Rover will provide about 10 gigabytes of recorded material, scientific data and new images to the global scientific community to study the Moon.”

In particular, Rashid Rover will study the characteristics of lunar soil, the petrography (composition and properties of lunar rocks) and geology of the Moon. It will also take photos of the moon’s dust movement, surface plasma conditions, and the lunar regolith (blanket of superficial deposits covering solid rocks).

Rashid Rover will help scientists better understand how lunar dust and rocks vary across the Moon. It will also provide fresh data for the development of new technologies that can be used to unravel the origins of the Earth and our solar system.

The success of the first Emirates Lunar Mission (ELM) will make the UAE the first Arab country and among the first countries in the world to land a spacecraft on the Moon, after the United States, former Soviet Union and China.

Emirates Lunar Mission team on the Rashid rover44-1646841192994
The success of the first Emirates Lunar Mission (ELM) will make the UAE the first Arab country and among the first countries in the world to land a spacecraft on the Moon, after the United States, former Soviet Union and China.Image Credit: Supplied

MBRSC underlined: “The mission embodies the aspirations of the UAE. Rashid Rover will collect images and information that will allow the UAE to conduct comprehensive and integrated studies on how to build human settlement on the Moon, prepare for future missions to study Mars and provide the scientific community with answers about the solar system and other planets.”

Before lift-off, let us look back at the timeline, technical specifications, instruments, functionalities and other important details of the Emirati-made Rashid Rover.

Two years ahead

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, first announced Rashid Rover in September 2020, and the original goal was to land it on the Moon by 2024.

Moonlanding
An image to show where Rashid Rover will land on the moon.

In April 2021, MBRSC signed a contract with ispace, inc., a Japanese private lunar robotic exploration company, to transport Rashid Rover to the Moon aboard Hakuto-R M1 (mission 1) lander. Under the terms of the agreement, ispace will also provide wired communication and power during the cruise phase and engage in wireless communication on the lunar surface.

Launch date

Lift-off is on Wednesday, November 30, at 12.39pm (Gulf Standard Time) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, USA, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. But the date and time are subject to change, depending on weather and other conditions at launch, according to MBRSC.

Hakuto-R M1, which means ‘white rabbit’ in Japanese (it is said a white rabbit lives on the Moon, according to Japanese folklore), will also carry other payloads, including a transformable lunar robot from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; a test module for a solid-state battery from NGK Spark Plug Co., Ltd., an artificial intelligence (AI) flight computer from Mission Control Space Services Inc., a multiple 360-degree camera from Canadensys Aerospace, a panel engraved with the names of Hakuto crowdfunding supporters, and a music disc containing the song ‘Sorato’ played by Japanese rock band Sakanaction.

Fuel-saving route

Once launched, the integrated spacecraft Hakuto-R M1 that will carry Rashid Rover and other payload to the Moon will take a low-energy route to the Moon rather than a direct approach. This means the landing on the Moon will take about five months after launch, in April 2023.

Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager of Emirates Lunar Mission at MBRSC, told Gulf News the rationale for the fuel-saving but long route. He said: “The main factor is the cost of the mission. The cost comes from the volume and mass of the spacecraft. In order to reach to the moon within six days – which is the shortest path – you would need to burn a lot of fuel which means that you need a big tank and a big propulsion system to do that.”

“But it will have a huge impact in cost so, in order to reduce the cost of the mission, ispace (our partner) has selected their approach that they can reach to the lunar surface within five months but it will be less costly because it will burn much less fuel. They will use a smaller tank and propulsion system, therefore the launch cost and the cost of developing the developing system will be lower,” he further explained.

Dimitra Atri, astrophysicist at New York University in Abu Dhabi, added: “In order to keep the prices of payload delivery attractive to customers, private companies reduce their expenses by choosing the lower cost option, which consumes less energy but takes much longer.”

Fully-automated landing

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will take Hakuto-R M1 into the Moon’s orbit, and following its successful separation from the launch vehicle (rocket), Hakuto-R M1 will use the gravitational pull of the Earth and sun to guide it to the moon.

As it gets closer to the lunar surface, the Japanese-made lander will first orbit the moon with an increasingly elliptical trajectory, before angling itself vertically to softly land on the moon and perform a fully-automated landing.

SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket carrying Starlink mission
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will take Hakuto-R M1 into the Moon’s orbit.Image Credit: AP

Hakuto-R M1 will then establish a steady telecommunication and power supply on the lunar surface after landing to support customer payload’s surface operations, including that of the UAE’s Rashid Rover.

Landing site

MBRSC confirmed Atlas Crater, located at 47.5°N, 44.4°E on the moon’s southeastern outer edge of Mare Frigoris (“Sea of Cold”), as Rashid Rover’s landing site.

MBRSC explained: “It was chosen to maintain flexibility during operations. Mare Frigoris lies in the far lunar north. The primary landing site was chosen along with multiple contingencies, which may be used depending on variables that occur during transit. The site meets the technical specifications of the lander technology demonstration mission and the scientific exploration objectives for the ELM mission.”

Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC)
Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre.Image Credit: Supplied

Atlas Crater has a diameter of 88 kilometres, and believer to have been formed between 3.2 to 3.8 billion years ago. It is circular in shape and bounded by an intricately terraced rim wall. The crater is 2km deep and has a complex floor covered in hills and cracks.

Aside from Atlas Crater, alternative landing targets – according to ispace – include Lacus Somniorum, Sinus Iridium and Oceanus Procellarum, among others.

Compact rover

Designed and developed fully by an Emirati team, Rashid Rover is touted as the world’s most compact rover that could land on the Moon. Its height is 70cm, length is 50cm and width is 50cm. Its weight is approximately 10kg with payload, but it can climb over an obstacle up to 10cm tall and descend a 20-degree slope.

Because Rashid Rover has been delivered well ahead of the original 2024 deadline, building it required rapid prototyping. According to Al Marqoozi, engineers at MBRSC “went through five modules until they reached with the one” that will be launched on November 30.

Advanced cameras

The four-wheeled Rashid Rover has 3D cameras, advanced motion system, sensors, and communication system that are powered by solar panels. There are four cameras that move vertically and horizontally, including two main cameras, which are Caspex (camera for space exploration) that can withstand vibrations during launch and landing

MBRSC has partnered with French space agency CNES (National Centre for Space Studies) for the two Caspex that will be used analyse the properties of lunar soil, dust, radioactivity, electrical activities, as well as the rocks on the moon surface. One Caspex is installed on top of the rover’s mast to provide panoramic visibility of its surroundings while the rear-mounted CASPEX camera will deliver images of the lunar soil with high spatial resolution.

“Rashid Rover’s drive tracks will be analysed to determine wheel sinkage and to investigate the detailed wheel-soil interaction. Such data will be important to design the mobility systems of future rovers,” MBRSC noted.

Mission period

Rashid Rover will study the Moon’s surroundings for one lunar day, which is equivalent to 14 days on Earth. But there is a chance Rashid Rover’s mission can be extended to another lunar day. Al Marzooqi earlier explained: “After the first lunar day the rover will go into a hibernation or mode sleep during the (lunar) night (which is also equivalent to 14 Earth nights) until the sun rises again and the temperature on the rover surface starts to rise again. And by that time, the team will try to “wake up” Rashid Rover to see if its systems were able to survive the low temperatures and ready for the second lunar day.

The Moon’s environment, however, is very harsh. The temperature drops to as low as negative 173 degrees Celsius, from as high as 127 degrees Celsius, when sunlight hits the Moon’s surface. But Rashid Rover is equipped with the latest technologies that can resist the lunar surface temperature.

To the Moon and back

Rashid Rover will not return to Earth. It’s a one-way flight and there is no transport that will bring back Rashid Rover and Hakuto-R. What Rashid Rover will bring back to Earth are multiple images – around 10 gigabytes of recorded material and scientific data. The ELM team at MBRSC will use these to test new technologies in material science, robotics, mobility, navigation and communications. The findings will also help in the design of future missions to survive and function in harsh space environment.

Rashid Rover is just the first of the UAE’s multiple missions to the Moon. A couple of months ago, in September, MBRSC signed an agreement with China National Space Administration (CNSA) to kickstart joint space projects and future lunar exploration, including sending the next UAE rover aboard Chang’e 7, a robotic Chinese lunar exploration mission expected to be launched in 2026 to target the Moon’s south pole.

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Good Governance and its Role in Sustainable Development

Good Governance and its Role in Sustainable Development

In their understanding of good governance and its role in sustainable development, Gulf Business addresses this theme only within the business world of the MENA region, specifically within the Gulf area countries. Let us see what it is all about.

 

Insights: Understanding good governance and its role in sustainable development

By Dr Ashraf Gamal Eldin

Good corporate governance fosters fair competition, enables efficient utilisation of resources, increases employment opportunities, and develops domestic and regional capital markets.

 

Dr Ashraf

Dr Ashraf Gamal Eldin

The term ‘governance’ refers to all forms of regulations, including that of institutions, procedures, and practices used to decide on and regulate matters of public concern. In its most basic sense, governance is about providing direction and ensuring that an institution operates efficiently.

Good governance, however, adds a normative or evaluative attribute to this process. In simple terms, good governance refers to the institutional and political outcomes necessary to achieve developmental objectives. The concept has become increasingly important in recent years, emerging as one of the essential components for growth and sustainable development. The key measure of good governance is the extent to which it upholds human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political, and social indicators. As a result, it is important to understand good governance and its significance in sustainable development.

Good governance reassures stakeholders that an organisation fulfills its obligations to all of its stakeholders, it treats everyone with respect and dignity, by being transparent about its operations, finances, and conduct. In fact, a major indicator of an institution’s quality and excellence is how committed it is to adopt the principles of good governance in all facets of its operations and decision-making. This is even more important, as it significantly supports sustainable development in institutions. It is widely observed that the inability to uphold these principles can have negative effects on welfare, efficiency, and operational excellence, thereby affecting the long-term success of organisations.

The private sector is growing rapidly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Despite the fact that every country is unique, forward-thinking companies throughout the region see better corporate governance as a competitive advantage in their quest for growth and profitability. Consequently, countries in the MENA region are at various stages of developing unique corporate governance frameworks. This could be further driven by making strenuous efforts to create a national environment that supports and encourages corporate governance in the region. The UAE ranked first in the Middle East and 24th globally on the Good Governance Index 2022, which was released by the Chandler Institute for Governance, a non-profit organisation that works with governments to strengthen their capabilities.

Sustainable development argues that the current use of resources should minimize the level of harm to the future generations’ share of resources. ‘Good Governance’ is capable of common sense and the versatile planning that is required for sustainable development.

A good corporate governance system fosters fair competition, enables more efficient utilisation of resources, increases employment opportunities, and the development of domestic and regional capital markets. With governance playing a crucial role in driving efforts to meet institutional goals, it has been referred to as the fourth pillar of sustainable development alongside social, environmental, and economic factors. As there is a strong emphasis on minimising future harm from the current use of resources, governance will certainly aid in shaping versatile strategies that ensure sustainable development across organisations.

Good governance is not a luxury, it creates a competitive edge for companies and economies.

 

Dr Ashraf Gamal Eldin is the CEO of Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance

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The top image above is of the World Economic Forum.

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Role Architectural Prototypes Play in the Global South

Role Architectural Prototypes Play in the Global South

It’s an essential component of the design process, where spatial ideations are translated into built form – the design of the prototype. Architectural projects, throughout history and in contemporary practice, have been prototyped to carry out both technical and aesthetic tests, where further insight is gained into the integrity of the design. It’s the blurred line between the experimental and the practical.

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Antoni Gaudí’s 1:25 and 1:10 scale plaster models of Sagrada Família can be defined as architectural prototypes, and so can the wooden model of Filippo Brunelleschi’s Florence Cathedral dome. But these are investigations conducted on a smaller scale. It can be argued that architectural prototypes are most effective when built out 1:1, from which further architectural interventions based on the prototype have the security of a design attempt that is not a scaled-down version of the finished product.

But the making of these prototypes is a protracted endeavor – necessitating the complex maneuvering of resources, labor, and capital – for a structure that aims to merely lay the foundations for how similar designs should be approached in the future.

When scrutinized from the perspective of the Global South, this dialogue is complicated further – in countries that have been historically over-exploited and are currently under-resourced, are full-scale architectural prototypes wasteful if they don’t immediately function as a working building? Is it right for these prototypes to simply exist as say, explorations of new materials without serving as a structure that will be in constant use from its inception?

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Jean Prouvé’s Maison Tropicale exhibited at the Tate Modern in London. Image © Steve Cadman licensed under the (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.
 

In colonial Africa, architectural experimentation was commonplace, from Fry and Drew in West Africa to Guido Ferrazza in Libya. This experimentation included that of French industrial designer and architect Jean Prouvé, who in 1949 developed Maison Tropicales – prefabricated, modular housing prototypes constructed out of aluminum designed to be easily transported, assembled, and disassembled.

The design problem that the Maison Tropicales had to solve was climatic – as France’s African colonies faced a shortage of housing and civic buildings. The prototype was designed for the equatorial climate, including a veranda with an adjustable aluminum sun-screen. Internally, walls were made of a combination of sliding and fixed metal panels – as glass portholes provided protection against UV rays.

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Jean Prouvé’s Maison Tropicale exhibited at the Tate Modern in London. Image © Steve Cadman licensed under the (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.
 

But despite this resourceful, ingenious response to the tropical climate, the Maison Tropicale as a prototype failed. It was no less expensive than locally constructed buildings, and the French colonial bureaucrats did not warm to the industrial appearance of the house. The prototype, ultimately, was a colonial project built for French administrators. A prototype built for the colonial class that proved unpopular with them, and that instead of being widely adopted, was resigned to be a traveling object, making frequent appearances in design exhibitions. This prototype of the African Tropics became a design object that to most, was known outside of its intended context.

But contemporary practice in the Global South has offered up more substantial prototypes, where investigations into materials are coupled with substantial usage. Senegalese firm Worofila’s Ecopavillon in Diamniadio, constructed in 2019, is one such example. Commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment of Senegal, it is built with earth and typha – a type of water reed found in the Senegal River. Woven typha panels provide sound insulation, and when mixed with adobe bricks, provide thermal insulation.

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Ecopavillon / Worofila. Image Courtesy of Worofila
 

As the prototype is part of the Senegalese government’s initiative to build a new city to ease congestion in Dakar, its usage is still in its early stages. The intention, though, is clear. The Ecopavillon will allow the monitoring of how the building’s materials behave, and performance can be assessed. the behavior of materials and to measure the performance of buildings. Furthermore, it can act as a training venue for craftspeople, where local knowledge of energy-efficient materials can be further developed.

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Ecopavillon / Worofila. Image Courtesy of Worofila
 

The most tangible example of a living prototype in the Global South, however, is arguably found in Bangladesh, in Marina Tabassum Architects’ Khudi Bari. It is a modular mobile housing unit, with an area of 128 square feet. Its light footprint and elevated form mimic the architectural vernacular of the Bengal delta, but more pressingly, it responds to climate change.

In an area with high instances of flash flooding, the raised second level acts as shelter for occupants as they await the receding of the water. In the Chars of Bangladesh – low-lying islands naturally formed by silt from rivers – the spaceframe structure is a crucial response, low cost, durable, and easily assembled and disassembled with minimum labor.

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Khudi Bari / Marina Tabassum Architects. Image © Asif Salman
 

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Khudi Bari / Marina Tabassum Architects. Image © Asif Salman
 

The true success of the Khudi Bari project can only be measured by what happens after the housing modules are built. A pilot project initiated by a non-profit organization affiliated with Marina Tabassum Architects in conjunction with private and governmental donors aims to establish at least 80 to 100 “Khudi Bari” modules in the flood-prone communities of Bangladesh by May 2023.

More crucially, March 2021 saw the first three homes built in collaboration with families, with some adapting their modules, with the vision for the future being that people involved in this pilot project will then become part of the training collective as the modules are initiated in other areas.

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Khudi Bari / Marina Tabassum Architects. Image © Asif Salman
 

Perhaps this is how architectural prototypes built in the Global South should function – as bold, inventive assemblages, that are not only for observation and display, but instead examples of architecture that is dynamic, in use, and living.

 

Read related Article: Why Bamboo is the Future of Asian Construction

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MENA countries’ Soft Power Ranking

MENA countries’ Soft Power Ranking

What is the MENA countries’ Soft Power Ranking?  According to the latest Global Soft Power Index 2022, a nation’s ability to influence, whether through attraction or persuasion, the behaviour and preferences of different actors on the international scene, including political regimes, businesses, and communities.  That is nowadays labelled “Soft Power.”

So, here is the MENA countries’ soft power ranking

Certain countries of the MENA suffer from a loss of influence on the international stage. They are dangerously retreating in favour of several small countries that manage to acquire a much more powerful brand image.

The assessment of the strength of the national brand is based, among other things, on data from the “Soft Power Index” as compiled by Brand Finance.

Fifty-five thousand people from more than 100 countries were asked about the reputation of countries and their influence on the international scene.

According to Brand Finance, countries with high overall ratings are suitable for investment. They also have an easier time marketing their brands and products.

Founded in 1996, Brand Finance, an accounting firm touted as the world’s leading independent brand valuation and brand strategy consulting group, is present in more than 20 countries and is at the service of Marketing, Finance, Tax & Legal departments as well as Business Leaders.  It is the first brand valuation US consultancy to join the International Valuation Standards Council, an independent, not-for-profit, U.S.- incorporated, private sector standards organization headquartered in the United States with its social headquarters in London, United Kingdom.

For several years, the Global Soft Power Index (GSPI) has measured the power and influence of all countries worldwide. For this 2022 edition, Algeria has retreated on the international scene to find itself in the 75th position out of 120 countries.

The GSPI considered Algeria less influential than countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jamaica and Malta.

According to the GSPI, Morocco is considered much more influential, ranking 46th globally. Algeria is also far from being able to compete with Egypt, which ranked first in Africa (31st), followed by South Africa (34th).

In the MENA region, Algeria ranked barely 8th among the 15 listed countries, after the United Arab Emirates (15th globally), Israel (23rd), Saudi Arabia (24th), Egypt (31st), Kuwait (36th), and Morocco (46th). Algeria (75th) is only better than Tunisia (76th).

The GSPI 2022 does, at the same time, not include Mauritania and Libya because of their chronic weaknesses that exclude them from this world ranking of the most influential countries.

The UAE is ranked as the top country in the MENA region in terms of global influence; as a small country of fewer than 10 million people located along the Arabian Gulf, it rose to tenth in this new ranking of 120 countries in the world. The UAE is one of the ten most influential and powerful countries worldwide.

Translated from Algerie-Part

 

 

Expanded access to solar power in Africa can stimulate economic development

Expanded access to solar power in Africa can stimulate economic development

Expanded access to solar power in Africa can stimulate economic development, but there are risks, thinks Ben Radley of the University of Bath, UK.  Or is it another story of how a new generation of entrepreneurs will tackle the world’s biggest challenges?

The above image is of the World Bank Blogs

Expanded access to solar power in Africa can stimulate economic development – but there are risks

By Ben Radley, University of Bath

Expanded access to solar power in Africa can stimulate economic development
The African Energy Commission says expanded access to new, people-centred renewable energy systems will “lift hundreds of millions of people” out of poverty. KRISS75/Shutterstock

 

UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 aspires to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. But in Africa, around 600 million people continue to live without access to electricity. Seeking to reach as many of these people as quickly as possible, African governments are signing agreements with foreign firms to deliver off-grid solar products to millions of households.

British firm Bboxx, for example, has an agreement with the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to deliver solar home systems (SHSs) to 10 million citizens by 2024. SHSs consist of one or more panels, usually installed on household roofs, capable of providing up to 300 watts of power. This is sufficient to power laptops, televisions, LED lights, and – in certain models – refrigerators and cooking.

Underpinning this process is the belief that expanded access to off-grid solar can drive economic development by strengthening household income. According to the African Energy Commission, the process will “lift hundreds of millions of people” out of poverty.

Do these claims stand up to interrogation?

Increased income, increased risk

In a recent study, Patrick Lehmann-Grube, an independent researcher, and I reviewed 56 papers that focused on how access to off-grid solar energy impacts household income in Africa. Initially, the available evidence appears to provide strong support, with almost all the papers finding a positive effect.

This was largely based on the finding that SHSs enabled local stalls and kiosks to stay open longer by operating beyond nightfall. The testimony of a Kenyan fruit and vegetable seller is typical. After the addition of a SHS, she reported being able to add “two more hours of trading each day”. Across the studies, additional work hours allowed household income to increase by around US$20–£40 (£17-£33) per month.

Workers’ greater capacity for self-exploitation

Existing studies generally cite working longer hours as a marker of economic progress. Yet this finding is ambiguous since increased income here is achieved through a greater capacity for self-exploitation. Given the physical limits to the length of a working day, these observed increases can only lead to a limited economic gain.

For economic development to be strengthened and sustained, it must be incorporated into a process of increased productivity. This should be achieved by an increasing output per unit of labour time – not simply via people working longer hours or more people working – and supported by an accumulation of capital.

Existing studies tend not to focus on these dimensions, leaving the true economically transformative nature of off-grid solar products unclear. The low energy capacity of SHSs should, nonetheless, caution against any great enthusiasm that they can generate such transformative economic progress.

Short-term gains, long-term losses?

The shift of energy provision via SHSs away from centralised public governance and towards a privatised model has in many instances also shifted the financial burden of maintenance onto local communities. Several studies noted that the maintenance costs for off-grid solar products often surpass what rural households and communities can afford.

Yet most studies focus on the short-term impact, usually within a couple of years of a household or firm gaining access to off-grid solar. Short-term income gains will prove fruitless in the future, however, should communities be unable to assure maintenance of the equipment.

Several studies also documented the recent introduction of a pay-as-you-go model. The model aims to extend low-wattage solar products to income-poor rural African households, who are often unable to afford the full upfront cost. Already, pay-as-you-go solar firms are beginning to push a range of other products to their clients, such as irrigation pumps and appliance leasing.

This strikes a further note of concern, as studies on financial technology (or fin-tech) services have demonstrated their frequent association with rising indebtedness. Indebtedness constrains rather than liberates households, a process hardly conducive to economic development.

Expanded access to solar power in Africa can stimulate economic development A ground-mounted solar power plant in a small community with a forest in the background.
Mini solar grids are capable of powering entire rural communities or urban suburbs.
Sebastian Noethlichs/Shutterstock

Can off-grid solar still drive economic development?

One solution to the limited economic impact of increased access to SHSs would be to focus on the provision of mini grids. Capable of powering entire rural communities or urban suburbs, research demonstrates that they support a far larger range of activities, extending into productive and industrial use.

Another avenue will be through developing domestic capacity in the design and manufacture of off-grid solar power. This carries the potential to generate productive employment and help stimulate a shift towards industrial development.

Here, Kenya has been a frontrunner through the selective use of strategic industrial policy. Many other countries, such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda, are looking to follow suit.

Existing studies have proved adept at identifying households who appear to have financially benefited from access to off-grid solar through increased income. But they have been less well attuned to the downsides.

Alongside rising indebtedness, these include the more general processes of polarisation, marginalisation and exclusion that inevitably accompany any process of capitalist economic development.

If, as Brazilian economist Celso Furtado once wrote, capitalist development is “a process of reshaping social relations founded on accumulation”, future research would do well to focus on how social relations are being reshaped by off-grid solar expansion – and with what consequences.The Conversation

Ben Radley, Lecturer in International Development, University of Bath

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

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