innovation: africa

Innovation: Africa
The life-saving solar panel

Seven out of ten people living in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity. Only 34% of health facilities in those countries have reliable electricity access. 900 children per day, or one child every two minutes, dies from water-borne diseases; and only 35% of pupils have electricity in their classroom.  In the light of those facts, Sivan Ya’ari (37) explains why she chose to export Israeli technologies to African countries.

"Our goal is to bring solar energy to villages in Africa, but also to change the health and education system in those areas, and provide them with tools to rise above their poor starting point", says Ya’ari. She has founded Innovation: Africa eight years ago, a nonprofit organization which aims to bring Israeli technologies to Africa.

Women in those communites suffer mostly from the lack of clean water and the lack of medicines, as they are in charge of providing water and growing food for their families, as well as raising the children and taking care of their health.  "They are also the ones who give birth in the dark, as the region is not connected to electricity, which raises the possibility of dangerous complications while giving birth", says Ya’ari. "As a mother of three children, all born by cesarean, I can't stop thinking what would have happen if I wouldn’t survive the birth? The places we work in are areas, which cesarean is almost never available, and the chances of the mother surviving such a birth is very small. Each time we connect a clinic to electricity, the chances of a mother dying while giving birth is getting lower".


One of the most important tools in our work at Innovation: Africa is the remote monitoring system, which allows us to monitor from Tel-Aviv the energy and water system we installed, and understand remotely a problem that disables an entire solar system in Tanzania, for example. "We get an alert if a lightbulb or a battery stops working, so we can assist our local team, who were trained by Israeli engineers in advance, to solve the problem," explains Ya’ari. Since it was founded in 2008 until today, the organization has completed 108 projects, which bring light, clean water and health services to almost one million people in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, the DRC and Senegal.


When Ya’ari is not visiting one of the seven countries that Innovation: Africa is working in, she lives in Tel-Aviv with her husband and three children. The idea to start an organization came to mind when she was interning at the United Nation's Developing Program (UNDP), as part of her MA studies. "The use of solar energy to provide the energy needs of poor communities in Africa is so obvious, that it was almost inevitable to start such organization", she explains.  "One solar panel can power a fridge in an isolated village, which in turn can enable the cooling of medicines and vaccines.  It's so basic, and at the same time so rare in those regions."

"In schools, one solar panel allows students to study even after school hours, and one can see the outcomes clearly in each school we have installed a solar panel: graduation percentages of both elementary and high school students have almost tripled. It really warms your heart to see how such a simple solution can change the lives and futures of so many people," she says. The same technologies, which made Israel the advanced and well-developed country it is today, are able to make the same changes in other places as well. It's truly a blessing to witness such a process.”