Can Social Enterprise Power Africa?

Two out of every three people in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to reliable power. Infrastructure costs put a traditional power grid out of reach for remote communities, but cheap solar home systems can transform people’s lives. Nate Heller ’09 explains the innovations that allow his social impact company to bring solar power to West Africa.

The headline “Africa Rising” graced the covers of both Time and the Economist during a 15-year period of strong growth that began in 2000; both magazines saw a continent on the verge of breaking out.

Stumbles in recent years have dropped sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth rate to just 1.4% in 2016. Factors limiting growth include falling commodity prices and the political quagmire in South Africa.

But Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian banker and philanthropist, describes the lack of electrical power as the “single biggest obstacle” to Africa’s development.

USAID estimates that two thirds of the people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to reliable power.

Writing in the New Yorker, Bill McKibben said, “Until recently, most people assumed that the continent would electrify in the same manner as the rest of the globe”—through centralized electrical plants and grids. But recently the growth of solar micro-grids that serve entire communities and home-based systems has led some to wonder whether Africa can bypass centralized power entirely and make distributed, renewable energy the conventional source of power for the continent. There are already more off-the-grid solar homes in Africa than the U.S., McKibben notes, but population growth means “the absolute number of Africans without power remains steady.”

Nate Heller ’09 is a co-founder of PEGAfrica, a pay-as-you-go financing firm that aims to bring solar home systems and related products to 500,000 households in West Africa by 2020. Yale Insights talked to Heller about the innovations that the social enterprise has introduced.

Yale archaeologists discover earliest monumental Egyptian hieroglyphs

A joint Yale and Royal Museums of Art and History (Brussels) expedition to explore the the ancient Egyptian city of Elkab has uncovered some previously unknown rock inscriptions, which include the earliest monumental hieroglyphs dating back around 5,200 years.

These new inscriptions were not previously recorded by any expedition and are of great significance in the history of the ancient Egyptian writing systems, according to Egyptologist John Coleman Darnell, professor in Yale’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale, who co-directs the Elkab Desert Survey Project.

“This newly discovered rock art site of El-Khawy preserves some of the earliest — and largest — signs from the formative stages of the hieroglyphic script and provides evidence for how the ancient Egyptians invented their unique writing system,” says Darnell.

Yale Club of South Africa: Radicals of Economic Transformation: The Role of Business at the End of Apartheid and Now


Three decades ago, South African business played an instrumental role in bringing an end to apartheid and supporting the promotion of democracy through the Consultative Business Movement (CBM).

Join us for an evening with some of the original participants in the CBM as we discuss business’s role then and now.

Michael W. Spicer, Deputy Chairman, Wesgro
Colin Coleman, Managing Director and Head of Investment Banking for Sub-Saharan Africa, Goldman Sachs
Sipho Pityana, Non-executive Chairman, Anglogold Ashanti, and Convener, Save South Africa
Christo Nel, Director, The Village Leadership Consulting
Cas Coovadia, Managing Director of the Banking Association South Africa


Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science and
Henry R. Luce Director, The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale

Conference to explore how African literature can (re)imagine the world

“Africa and the World: Literature, Politics, and Global Geographies” is the theme of the 2017 African Literature Association (ALA) Conference taking place at Yale University June 14-17.

The conference will bring together more than 600 participants from around the world and feature 165 panels exploring the usefulness of “world literature” as a framework for understanding the literatures of Africa and the Global South. Keynote lectures and panels will explore the possibilities offered by African literatures and cultures for (re)imagining the world. For the full program, visit the ALA website.

The event is sponsored by the Councils on African Studies and Middle East Studies at Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Title VI National Resource Center Grants from the United States Department of Education.

The changing face of global health: Yale and South African doctors partner to expand care

While working in South Africa several years ago, Dr. J. Zachary Porterfield came across a young child in a clinic in rural KwaZulu-Natal. During the examination, the doctor was surprised to find that the patient had drainage from her ears and loss of hearing.

“It had progressed to the point that she was having difficulty in school,” said Porterfield. “When I asked her mother how long this had been going on, she said three years. Her ears had been draining, and she had been losing her hearing for three years.”

Unfortunately, this is not an unusual situation in some KwaZulu-Natal communities. Indeed, many children in at-risk communities around the world are losing their hearing as a result of chronic untreated ear infections, a phenomenon largely unheard of in the United States. The socioeconomic and personal costs of acquired deafness are usually devastating.

Return to Rwanda

vedder weber yale thenandnow

You might be surprised to find one of the world’s foremost experts on mountain gorilla conservation supporting the reintroduction of bison at a conference in Banff National Park in Alberta where they had been extirpated for more than a century.

But Bill Weber, a social scientist and lecturer at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) who, along with his wife, ecologist Amy Vedder, is well known for his pioneering work in the Congo Basin, is no stranger to conservation in the American West. As the former head of the North America division of the Wildlife Conservation Society and co-chair of the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative (Y2Y), he is well versed in western conservation challenges, from connectivity to carnivores. The Banff conference was unusual, he says, because it not only focused on bison, but also on Canada’s First Nations and Native Americans, for whom bison are an essential part of their culture.