Yasin Mohamed Elmi, a father of seven, has seen his income rise since solar streetlights were installed in the coastal town of Hobyo in Somalia’s central Mudug region.
Businesses along the main streets, including his small retail food store, can now stay open at night. Yasin has nearly doubled his profit from four to about seven dollars a day.
“Businesses used to close at sunset, but now they can stay open well into the night for as long as there are customers who want to buy. The town is open and safe at night,” he said.
“Women in particular used to rush home after sunset, or ask others to accompany them home, but now with these bright lights they can stay out late and reach home safely.”
Electricity is available for only four hours a day in Hobyo. As a solution, the local administration in partnership with the non-profit organisation Nordic International Support (NIS) Foundation, installed the solar lighting along main streets and in market areas.
Yasin has decided to expand his business from the normal sugar, flour, and rice sales to include a corner selling tea and snacks to passersby.
“The streetlights have provided opportunities for all the people, not just the few rich ones who can afford their own solar systems, everyone is benefitting,” he said.
Asho Ahmed Warsame, a mother of eight, sells milk from her own herd of animals in Hobyo. She told Radio Ergo that two years ago she stopped sales after sunset due to lack of customers. The new streetlights have enabled her and other women milk sellers to carry on their business safely after dark.
“How late you stay at your selling post now depends entirely on you, no one disturbs you, it’s indeed a blessing!” Asho said, approving of the lighting scheme.
Hobyo district commissioner, Abdullahi Ahmed Fat, told Radio Ergo that since the civil war, the town has lacked reliable electricity. The single private company providing limited electricity has not been willing to expand due to the high cost of fuel, which is transported from Mogadishu and taxed heavily along the way. Investment in expansion would mean higher costs of electricity, which the company did not see as a good business strategy.
The solar streetlights, in contrast, are free for all to benefit.
“Nearly the same number of people who work during the day are now working at night, and we thank NIS Foundation and the Norwegian government for that,” said the district commissioner.