The TRUE Africa 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today and tomorrow. We’re featuring them over 100 days and we’ve asked them all three questions.
Olafur Eliasson is a Danish-Icelandic artist who has exhibited at Tate Modern in London and MOMA in NYC. In 2012, he co-launched Little Sun, a ‘social business’ bringing clean solar energy to off-grid communities in more than 10 African countries. The ‘Little Sun’ is a solar-powered LED lamp, pictured below, which can produce up to 10 hours of light.
Your architectural school had a residency in Addis Ababa and you’ve adopted two Ethiopian children. What drew you to the country?
The first time I visited Ethiopia, I was struck by the people of the country. They have such a strong sense of pride that is not meant to be defensive. Ethiopians are forthcoming, genuine, open and ready to talk but they never let go of themselves, and that is a quality I treasure.
Little Sun has reached more than 670,000 people living off-grid. Why do you care about these communities?
I care about these communities because they have either insufficient or no access to electricity supplies, and access to light and energy is a human right. By addressing energy access you also address other fundamental development issues: health, education and economic growth.
In most cases, people living off the energy grid do so against their will and taking action on their behalf should not be seen as anything beyond what can be expected.
At the end of the day we are all in the same boat. The truth is that access to clean and affordable energy is important, no matter what part of the world you live in.
We’ve asked all of our TRUE Africa 100 this last question. Who’s your African of the year?
I am not sure I want to point towards a single leader, as I see the potential in the great continent lies within its increasing sense of shared collectivity.
I’m afraid to see the continent adopt the faith of egoism that I know in Europe; the power to fight this lies with all prominent figures in modern-day Africa. These are the people that can be powerful in fostering interdependence.
Find out more about Little Sun
Visit Olafur Eliasson’s website
Find him on Twitter @OlafurEliasson
Come back tomorrow for the next TRUE Africa 100 and keep up to date using the hashtag #TRUEAfrica