The World Health Organization reports that one in four health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have little to no access to electricity, and only 30 per cent of health facilities reported having reliable access to electricity. To address this issue, the UNDP started the Solar for Health Initiative in 2015, starting with their pilot in Zimbabwe. The Solar for Health project aims to establish dependable electricity access for off-the-grid healthcare centers infrastructure – including clinics, labs, hospitals etc. – through solar panel installations.
The Hard to Reach
Communities in Zimbabwe lacking reliable electricity in health care facilities.
Solar for Health’s success ultimately lies in the dedicated engagement of development institutions such as the UNDP and Global Fund, working in coordination with local public and private actors. While public and private collaboration and coordination remained central to S4H’s success, there were several key program innovations that contributed including:
- Partnerships: The Solar for Health project can connect nationally registered technicians and engineers with both the installation companies and health centres. These partnerships ensured quality implementation of solar panels and quality assurance.
- Sustainability / Innovation: The Solar for Health project ensured that the request for proposals (RFP) would commit to adequate training of local staff for the project’s longevity.
- Financing: Solar For Health established well-designed financing mechanisms to gain access to an untapped pool of funds and reduce risk for private funders in investing in the program.
- Innovation: While most other projects fail to reach the hardest to reach because of a lack of intentional targeting, S4H used a bottom-up approach with the Ministry of Health working directly with clinics to distribute panels to those in most need.
This research was made possible through the Reach Alliance, a partnership between the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. Research was also funded by the Ralph and Roz Halbert Professorship of Innovation at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. We express our gratitude and appreciation to the Consumer Feedback Consultancy for their support with our research efforts. We are also grateful to those we met and interviewed for sharing their insights and passions with us.
This research was vetted and received approval from the Ethics Review Board at the University of Toronto. Research was conducted remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.