Haven't posted anything for weeks. Part of that is because I got sucked into editing the Tanzania report. I wasn't originally supposed to edit it, but the people who were, got busy. So I ended up with an extra couple of weeks' work. 12 chapters, 200+ pages. Then a few more days because one chapter was, basically, unreadable and had to be rewritten more or less from scratch.
Two things that weren't my department, but that I found interesting.
First, the use of photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity is spreading steadily across the country. PV solar generation is growing by about 15% per year -- from a tiny base, but doubling every 4-5 years.
Since Tanzania sits on the equator, there's no shortage of sunshine: a square meter of PV solar paneling can produce about double what it does here in Germany. PV panels are being used all over the country now. Some of the popular uses include hospitals and clinics (they can run a fridge and basic lab equipment), barber shops (a couple of pairs of electric shears), rural police stations and government offices (computers, keeping lights on) and mobile phone chargers (apparently these are ubiquitous).
Apparently there are two sorts of PV panels for sale in Tanzania: ones from Europe (expensive but good) and ones from India and China (less expensive but crappy).
There are problems. To use PV solar for much more than cell phone charging, you need batteries and a modest level of electrical competence. Neither of these are present in abundance. The local universities train electrical engineers, and I assume someone is training electricians, but they tend to cluster around the larger cities and towns.
Another minor surprise: Tanzania's national weather service.
It's much better than you'd think. Not clear why. But it's providing good, real-time information for both weather predictions and best-guess seasonal stuff.
Tanzania has 95% mobile coverage. So almost every community -- every dusty little plains village, every wandering band of Masai -- now has at least one guy with a cell phone who can get regular text updates on when the rains are coming and how long they're likely to be.
Satellite data is cheap or free, basic local weather stations, plus a good tradition of a strong government meteorological service. Apparently the weather guys are something that's all too rare in Africa: an educated elite who aren't afraid to spend time out in the villages and/or get their hands dirty.are known and easily taught. So why don't other African countries have good weather services too? I'm not sure, but I think this is another positive-legacy-of-socialism thing: lots of little
Anyway, good weather service = huge, huge difference in quality of life. I mean, Tanzania is still a very poor country where millions of people are in serious danger of hunger or malnutrition. But the weather thing has a double impact -- not just economic, but psychological too. If nothing else, it dramatically reduces the uncertainty.
I liked Tanzania. Wish I'd had more time to poke around. Doesn't look like I'll be going back any time soon, though. Oh, well: that's life as a freelancer.