African solar power company can help keep Covid vaccines cool
Ghana-based PEG Africa, West Africa’s largest and fastest growing independent provider of distributed energy, has plans to pilot solar fridges and freezers in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal.
The company developed the solar-powered "Koolboks" freezer for fishing communities who needed to store fish until they could reach the market.
But the "Koolboks" freezer is also an African solution that could have another use – storing coronavirus vaccines.
It's an affordable way to store perishable items in remote and off-grid locations.
"Some of the fish we smoke to conserve it longer or we put ice so we can keep it for two or three days before going to deliver at market. Today the cost of buying the ice is a bit high so we are looking at working with the solar-powered freezer."
Antoni Fianni is a fisherman who lives on an island in southern Ivory Coast and it's not connected to the electricity grid.
Today Fianni can store his catch for at least ten days before taking it to market. He and his wife pay for the Koolboks freezer via regular instalments.
But PEG Africa's CEO for Ivory Coast Thierry Adonis say such cold chain technology is particularly important amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
"And if we don't have, if the relevant departments and the health ministries don't follow this cold chain logic, then clearly people living in the more remote areas will not have access to the vaccine."
PEG Africa is currently piloting the solar-powered fridges and freezers in Ivorian and Senegalese fishing communities.
With funding from Power Africa, a network of private and public groups set up by USAID, PEG has also started providing solar-power systems to off-grid health centers.
According to Journal Global Health: Science and Practice, nearly 60% of healthcare facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity.
That means the Koolboks could be a useful tool to ensure more of the population gets protected.