Saturday, 12th of August was International Youth Day. It’s a day created by the United Nations in 1985 to draw attention to youth issues and increase opportunities for young people around the world. The theme for this year is “Youth Building Peace”. The theme is “dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace.”

In honour of this day, Sierra Leone Opportunity for Business Action (SOBA) profiled a young man in Sierra Leone dedicated to improving his community with solar energy.

Meet Lamin Kamara

Lamin is a 24-year old sustainable energy enthusiast from the Songo Village in the Western Rural Area of Sierra Leone. He works for Easy Solar, a local sustainable company founded by Azimuth Solar. Azimuth is a start-up aiming to provide high-quality solar products and appliances to millions of Sierra Leoneans with limited or no access to the conventional grid. Currently, less than 10 percent of the population have access to some form of power.

Lamin began working at Easy Solar when they first entered the market in March of 2015 and quickly learned about the company’s solar products and pay as you go payment system.

Figure 1 Lamin Kamara, 24, poses with two Easy Solar pico home lights.

Lamin sought out the opportunity to work with Easy Solar and was “very happy” when the opportunity came to fruition.  His day to day responsibilities involves marketing the products to consumers and collecting repayments. “My day to day is very easy, because there is no headache to collect the money. The moment they come to top up, the lights come on. If they buy Le 5,000 for a week, when that is finished the solar lights go off, they rush to come to us and top up.”

Figure 2 Lamin explains an Easy Solar light to a customer.

There has been a lot of exposure to solar equipment both in urban and rural parts of the country due to installations on some public facilities and NGO-sponsored initiatives. Many people are aware of the benefits of solar but the perception of high cost, poor quality, and reliability among other concerns have made uptake of solar slow.

Figure 3 Lamin and his brother Abubakar Mansaray talk about solar power to young children in the village.

The UN Population Fund has reported that the global population of young people between the ages of 10 and 24 is approximately 1.8 billion. This is higher than any other time in history. Educating young people about sustainable energy is the key to ensuring today’s efforts continue ahead into the next generation. Their decisions and actions can tackle the challenges of energy poverty.

International Youth Day celebrates young people like Lamin that have embraced sustainable energy and new technologies to improve their communities and help change lives. Improved access to energy drives economic growth and improves quality of life.

Figure 4 Lamin and Abubakar pose with their two lights.

The brothers have big plans for the future.  “Our plan is very great. It is very big; we are ready to work with Easy Solar to expand and extend the solar industry. We are ready at any time to do this.” Expansion and increased access to energy are a high priority for the Government of Sierra Leone. On 10 May 2016, the Department for International Development (DFID) and the country’s Ministry of Energy (MoE) launched the Energy Revolution to provide power to all Sierra Leoneans by 2025.

SOBA is working in collaboration with DFID, MoE and private sector energy businesses to achieve this goal and help remove the barriers that are hindering the growth of energy access in the country.

The Energy Revolution ushers in a new era for renewable energy in Sierra Leone and with the promise of young people like Lamin, the future is looking bright.