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Power to the Poor in Ghana

In Ghana, more than 48% of communities or 83% of rural households are not connected to grid power and most are unlikely to be connected in the near future. As in other African countries where this sort of disparity exists, the difference between villages with electricity and those without is stark.  In Ghana, villages without electricity fall quickly behind, as power provides clear health, education, and economic benefits. Communities without electricity remain isolated and limited in the quality and quantity of services they can provide. Entrepreneurs, businesses, and educated citizens are forced to move to where there is power, while the community they left behind becomes further marginalized. As the economy of a village shrinks, so does its capacity for empowerment and growth.

In 2004 EnterpriseWorks/VITA began exploring options for stand-alone electricity generating devices that aren’t costly or imported.  With funding from the World Bank Development Marketplace Competition, EWV began the “Power to the Poor” pilot project aimed at developing a sustainable market for locally built wind power systems in communities that were not on the national electricity grid.  Local technicians were trained in design, construction, installation, and operation of wind energy-generation equipment. During the year long project, a total of nine wind turbines were installed at off-grid locations by the technicians. These sites, which included several schools, a health center, a grocery kiosk and a tailor shop, were located throughout eight different rural communities in Ghana, all outside of Accra. The wind turbines installed were sturdy units that utilized locally available materials and skills.  The units cost half the price of imported energy alternatives and, more importantly, buyers were able to have them repaired easily by the local technicians that created them. 

The manufacture of small-scale wind turbines in Ghana introduced a reliable and affordable source of electricity for those without.  The communities benefited from increased services, better communication, and an improved social and commercial environment. Countless business innovations were made possible with the electricity provided by the wind generators.  Local manufacture provided an additional source of revenue for the trained technicians, with the opportunity to grow their businesses as they trained others to deliver manufacturing and maintenance services.  By investing in priority community services and promoting economically productive activities necessary for sustainable development, “Power to the Poor” demonstrated that it is possible for locally built wind-power systems to stimulate economic growth in some of the most remote communities in Ghana.