she shapes the city

Elizabeth Onoka ~ Rural empowerment

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For Elizabeth accessing electricity is about “equalizing” society. After working for nine years at the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) she is invested in bringing power to communities far from the urban centres.

REA’s “pet project” has been the electrification of Kenya’s primary schools, after an intense drive this now stands at 98% across the country. Closely tied to this is the “One lap top per child” program, a much publicized campaign which aims to equip every school child with a computer. Access to power is a key determinant of whether this will be feasible. With or without laptops Elizabeth believes electricity presents a key barrier or opportunity for school children, those without access to light have less study time and feel disadvantaged when it comes to national examinations. The further away from the higher the higher the cost of electrification and the more attractive solar solutions become, REA is currently looking at setting up solar systems for schools in Kwale, Kitui and the North Eastern counties.

Education is not the only area that power access defines the success of communities. Local businesses are severely constricted by limited access to electricity. Elizabeth believes that rolling out electricity to rural areas will be a powerful incentive to prevent rural urban migration because “when people have a means and they start their own businesses they are not attracted to the glamour of the cities because they are building their own towns.” The aim is to have 100% electrification by 2020 and Elizabeth is confident that REA is well on the way to making that a reality.

When asked about her hopes for the future Elizabeth has ambitious goals, she says

“We would like for all corners of the rural Kenya to access power. We would like to participate in job creation through electrification, but above all we want to give the child from the primary school an opportunity in life so that their opportunity is the same as that child in the urban centres. By and large we want to revolutionise the economy.”

Elizabeth wears a Kiko Romeo dress and Le Collane di Betta earrings.

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7 comments

  1. Elizabeth

    Hi all. Great comments. Yes statistics are readily available. And this new fiscal year, we are determined to go further into rural Kenya, lighting up public facilities like markets, tea buying centres, dispensaries and households!

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  2. Domtilla Ngoko

    Liz I need power in my rural home. I am about 400 metres from a transformer how do I go about it?

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  3. Austin

    Off the bat, excellent project! Looking forward to hearing more stories by female game changers across the continent.
    The laptop project is in my opinion a huge waste of time and resources. Instead of ensuring that every child has a laptop, how about sorting out issues with the education system first (8-4-4 should be replaced!), upgrading schools to at least a minimum comfort level, and ensuring minimum teacher-student ratios are upheld should be the first priorities. Then we can talk about at the least providing perhaps each class with one or two laptops at first. I know university students today that survive without laptops.
    Otherwise well done REA with the progress made with a 200 man team

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  4. Chris

    Looking forward to 100% (green?) electrification! As stated, KPLC prioritised “economically viable” areas, so this initiative has definitely been a game changer. The next step should be to break up KPLC’s monopoly and hopefully spike a price reduction through competition. It is a real pity that a country with abundant sunshine at the equator is not more heavily invested in solar, but you can not put the cart before the horse.

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  5. Nelson

    kudos to REA for progress made so far!As Elizabeth astutely points out, electricity has the ptential to be an equalizer on several fronts. What I found interesting was the role that electricty plays, be it as a child or as an adult, your education level, economic opportunities, you name it literally depend on one commodity.

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  6. Giulia

    It’s such a great thing what you and REA are doing!
    I’m really stunned!
    Keep up the good work, Elizabeth 🙂

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