Solar Street Lights Bring Safety and Business Back to Somalia

Speeches Shim

Solar Power Brings Light to the Streets in Somalia
New solar lights make a street in Baidoa safe after dark.
Citizens are now able to socialize and conduct business at night
“Since the lights are working, women can walk freely at night to shop and visit our neighbors without fear.”

March 2016—For years, the citizens of Baidoa, a city in Somalia located 140 miles northwest of Mogadishu, could not walk the streets at night. Businesses closed at 6:00 p.m. and people locked themselves up in their homes from fear.

“Women could not walk anywhere because of the possibility of rape, robbery or killings by local gangs,” says Amina Hussein Haji, a local resident.

Citizens also ran the risk of militia attacks and unimpeded violence taking place under the cover of darkness.

After the departure of terrorist group al-Shabaab from Baidoa in February 2012, USAID supported community dialogues where citizens prioritize projects together with the local government, select contractors through a transparent tender process, and supervise project completion. The process improves the relationship between the community and the government, building the trust and confidence essential to democracy.

When USAID supported the local government with the installation of 27 solar streetlights on the main street in Baidoa, life for residents changed overnight. As in many other cities in Somalia, residents are now doing business and socializing on the streets after sunset.

“Since the lights are working, we can walk freely at night to shop and visit our neighbors without fear,” says Haji.

USAID installed over 1,200 solar streetlights in 12 different cities throughout Somalia. In Mogadishu alone, roads in 11 out of 17 districts now have light.

“My business has doubled,” says Mohamed Ahmed, a local business owner in Baidoa. “Many people now shop at night with young people enjoying coffee in outdoor cafés due to the newly installed lights. Children are also playing along the side of the main road.”

Solar lighting is new to Somalia. USAID is pursuing the introduction of renewable energy throughout the country as an alternate and reliable source of power in areas where electricity is sporadic or even nonexistent. Local technicians are trained in solar lighting maintenance and installation, creating an industry that is sustainable and contributes to economic growth.

The activity is part of USAID’s Transition Initiatives for Stabilization program in Somalia, which is designed to improve service delivery and responsiveness at all levels of government. Through the program, which runs from 2010 to 2016, Somali government institutions, the private sector and civil society collaborate to design, evaluate and deliver projects that have a lasting impact on citizens. In six years, over 850 projects in 17 of Somalia’s 18 regions have been completed, including the creation of over 13,000 jobs, the construction of 150 government buildings and 60 miles of roads, and the construction or rehabilitation of 18 educational facilities.