Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Let There Be Light

Solar Power in Africa

Kieran Guilbert writes for Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Kieran Guilbert writes for Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Kieran Guilbert is based in Dakar, Senegal, where he is the West Africa Correspondent for the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He wrote about solar power in Africa. As he says, much of Africa is without a regular power supply.

Azuri Technologies has an ‘entry level’ solar system. Customers pay an installation fee. Then they pay by mobile phone or ‘scratch cards’ as they use it. After a period of 18 months to 36 months, they own it.

Nigeria has recently agreed with Azuri to install solar power systems. There is already a pilot program in the north.

Participants in pilot project to use Azuri solar energy in Nigeria

Participants in pilot project to use Azuri solar energy in Nigeria

The system, they say, “can power four LED bulbs, a radio and a USB port with charging cables for mobile phones.

I encourage you to look at the article, if for nothing else than to see the picture of a thatch-roofed dwelling with a solar panel!

“Swapping kerosene for home solar energy can cut African families’ spending on lighting to two percent from nine percent of their household income, according to a 2016 report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a UK-based think-tank,” the author says.

Not to mention getting rid of the smell.

“Renewable energy could therefore be key to helping sub-Saharan Africa meet a global goal of providing universal access to electricity by 2030, experts say.”

Wouldn’t that be wonderful!

Literary Light on Nigeria

My memoir teacher Marcelle sent me an article from the online publication “Signature.” The author Keith Rice says that Nigeria seems to be over the decades of political upheaval. Those years included the Biafran War.

“Comprising the largest population in Africa, Nigeria is home to a wide variety of diverse cultures, although, in terms of religion, the population is mostly split between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north,” he says.

Boko Haram remains a challenge. But there is so much more to the country.

Ben Okri's novel The Famished Road is on the list

Ben Okri’s novel The Famished Road is on the list

He says Nigeria has a rich culture of writing. From my days in training as a Peace Corps volunteer in 1962 to today, I have seen amazing works of literature. He says, “The books. . . most by Nigerian authors, represent a cross-section of Nigeria’s strong literary tradition and will hopefully provide some insight into the nation and its cultures.”

Africa’s Giant: the Best Books to Understand Nigeria, lists eleven. Can you guess which before you look?

I’m familiar with all the authors except one. Okey Ndibe I know personally. He is married to the daughter of my friend and fellow co-founder of Nigerwives. He wrote an acknowledgement for my memoir.

Of course Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is on the list with two books.

I’ve read hers, and only one other of the books on Rice’s list. So now my to-read list has grown! I’ll take this list to my book groups and see if each group might select one of the books.

Shining a Light on History and Slavery’s Legacy

Laura Winnick teaches 11th and 12th grade students at a small charter school in Berkeley, California. Her students are black. She is dedicated to helping them understand the history of race in the U.S.

She is described in the article from Beacon Broadside. “A social justice educator, she cares deeply about bringing culturally relevant curriculum, restorative discipline practices, project-based learning, and technology into her classroom.”

Winnick describes her teaching. She says, “We examine: How do race and gender affect our identities? What are the lingering effects of slavery? How are people impacted by their ancestral histories?”

She has her students read Octavia Butler’s Kindred. I was not familiar with the book. Are you? One more to add to my to-read list!

Kindred by Olivia Butler is a popular choice for high school and college students.

Kindred by Olivia Butler is a popular choice for high school and college students.

I learned that it is a frequent choice for high school students as well as for community-wide reads.

Here’s what Wikipedia says. “Kindred is a bestselling novel by American science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler. Part time-travel tale and part slave narrative, it was first published in 1979 and is still widely popular.”

It tells the story of a black woman author who shuttles back and forth between her modern-day life and the plantation where she meets her ancestors and their owners.

“Written to underscore the courageous endurance of people perceived as chattel, Kindred examines the dynamics and dilemmas of antebellum slavery as well as its legacy in present American society,” Wikipedia concludes.

Winnick says that this year, she had her students read the graphic novel adapted from Kindred in addition to the original. They loved it!

After they read, she gave them a travel-based project.

To do it, “they took on the voice of travel guide writers, and ‘advertised’ nineteenth-century Maryland in order to turn advertisement into warning.” The goal, she said, was for students “to distill the details of nineteenth-century Maryland as described by Octavia Butler and make connections between the contemporary moment and slavery’s legacy.”

You can see a few of the completed projects at the Beacon Broadside blog. They are brilliant and forceful expressions of the horrors of slavery and the challenges faced by black people even if they weren’t slaves.

Could we invite students to do something like this for next year’s TEAM Westport essay contest?

Light at the End of the Tunnel for Nigeria’s Economy?

Literature is a positive aspect of Nigerian life. But the economy is not so positive.

President Buhari just announced a new three-year Economic Growth and Recovery Plan.

My husband Clem is not optimistic. He says, “They’ve talked about this over and over and over again until you’re sick of hearing it.” Do you think this time will be different?

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. I read Kindred many years ago and was so impressed with that imaginary / real world she created.

  2. I was cheered by the idea of the entry level solar power system. I like the idea of solar power more than wind power. I have learned that wind farms are usually located somewhere like the Great Plains, and specifically in the path of permanent wind currents. Great for generating electricity, but not for the birds that use those currents in migration. Species whose numbers are already dwindling lose more individuals who fly into the turbine blades.

    • Good point, Margaret. Solar power is certainly smart for countries in the tropics. I’m not sure what happens during the rainy season or Harmattan when the dust from the Sahara can block sunlight. Maybe there is enough sun that gets through despite rain or dust.