British minister: Solar power can help Africa's poor

During a recent visit to Nigeria, Britain's Minister of State for Africa Grant Shapps said some of the continent's poorest residents can be helped by reliable solar power systems to cope with chronic power shortages.

Nigeria's access to energy is one of the lowest in the world with more than half of the Nigerian population not having any access. Expensive generators and blackouts are a common reality for many in the country, and many people have to rely solely on kerosene or candles.

"This is holding back an entire nation and continent from reaching its full potential," Shapps said.

The United Nation's new Global Goals, set last month, aim to provide universal energy access in Africa by 2030. On the current trajectory, however, Shapps pointed out that this goal won't be met until 2080.

"We simply cannot wait for full national grids to show up one day," Shapps said. "The technology, expertise and knowledge to fix this is available and is ready to be deployed right now, so we're going to harness this opportunity and get more people into this exciting energy market."

To that end, Shapps said Britain and the Lagos State Government have already made investments toward supporting installation of solar energy systems in 172 schools and 10 health centers across the state to provide reliable and instant access to vital electricity.