• Electric power
  • Will SSA's electricity supply be a spark for eHealth?

    Comprehensive connectivity’s increasingly important for eHealth, and especially its mHealth component. For Africa, it’s a major requirement and a big constraint. Differences between Sub-Saharan (SSA) countries may be a good indication of readiness, or unreadiness. McKinsey, the global consultancy, has analysed these in its report   Brighter Africa: The growth potential of the sub-Saharan electricity sector. 

    Its main finding’s that SSA’s starved for electricity. There are four main groups defined by percentages of people’s connections to electricity supplies; below 20%, 20% to 34%, 35% to 50% and above 50%. A summary is:



    About half the SSA countries have a connection rate of less than 20%. Seven countries, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and South Africa, have electricity access rates that exceed 50%. The average access rate to the electricity grid for the rest of SSA’s 20%.

    These numbers are a snapshot. McKinsey says SSA’s starting to see momentum for change, mainly due to the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All programme. Success depends on countries investing rigorously in activities such as electricity supply and pricing. With these in place, SSA’s eHealth initiatives should have an improving operational context to expand from.

  • Tesla offers a big battery

    Nikola Tesla was an electrical genius. He invented the alternating current motor that powers ordinary and lighting systems used around the world. Now, Tesla Motors, the company that bears his name, and is led by enigmatic South African Elon Musk, has developed Powerwall, a stationery storage unit. It’s a lithium ion battery for homes that charges using electricity from solar panels, or the grid when utility rates are low, and can provide powers in the evening. It works as a back-up during power cuts and load shedding too. It’s also available for businesses.

    Tesla supplies care batteries. Powerwall’s now a parallel product that’ll be available in the USA the summer. From there, it may provide part of a solution to Africa’s power supply limitations in hospitals and clinics and help to expand eHealth use and reliability from 2016 onwards. Coupled with a solar energy programme, Powerwall seems like a good opportunity for Africa.

    Powerwall may not be the only choice. The BBC’s technology website says that General Electric (GE) and South Korea's LG Chem are developing their stationary storage units. These may use hydrogen fuel cells, which could render Tesla’s product obsolete, but that’s typical of technology.

    Nathan Myhrvold, co-founder of Intellectual Ventures, and once the Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, has a view on battery technology. He say “It gets better, but it gets better slowly”. Either way, these units could be an important part of expanded eHealth in Africa.