College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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rural solar electrification, senegal, leapfrogging, green washing, fatick


Rural solar electrification programs are accelerating the pace of international development by delivering electricity to some of the world’s most remote communities. Electricity is widely-perceived as a harbinger of economic, environmental and social change. Through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, companies and countries qualify for Carbon Credits by transferring green technology, such as solar electricity, to developing countries. The CDM has created an international framework for technology leapfrogging. The Fatick region of Senegal, in West Africa, is a case study in technology leapfrogging. In this coastal farming region, slim, sleek solar panels decorate the grass roofs of traditional African mud huts. While the West is touting rural solar electrification as a win-win solution to international development and climate change, many rural Senegalese are less enthusiastic about their new-found electricity. Prompted by legitimate concerns voiced by rural Senegalese, this study attempts to measure the economic, environmental, and social impacts of rural solar electrification on Fatick residents. Qualitative data was gathered from eighty-one in-depth, in-person interviews in ten rural communities in the Fatick region. The results indicate that Fatick residents are gaining no measurable direct or indirect economic benefits from solar electricity. In examining social impacts, the results indicate that solar electricity has brought no improvements in women’s empowerment. The results do indicate, however, that solar electricity has brought marginal improvements to the environment, education and community health. The data establishes that rural solar electrification programs in their current form fail to deliver promised advancements to developing countries. Interestingly, manufactures of solar equipment and those transferring solar technology under the CDM are accruing benefits from rural solar electrification. This leaves one wondering if rural solar electrification programs would be better described by the term green washing rather than leapfrogging. The thesis concludes with fourteen recommendations for improving the impact of rural solar electrification programs on residents in developing countries.