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From Solar Electrification to Solar Waste? Circular Economy Approach to Off-Grid Electrification in Ghana
In recent years, there has been a surge in the amount of off-grid solar light solutions used in the African continent. This is largely due to the electrification efforts for a continent still struggling with ensuring electricity access to many parts of its population especially in rural areas. In Ghana, there is a growing concern over what has been coined ‘solar waste’ as a constitutive part of the long-standing issue of electronic waste facing the country. The linkages and dynamics between the two regimes (solar electrification and solar waste) remain understudied. This paper aims at offering some insights into these interlinkages by employing a circular economy approach. The paper is based on empirical research conducted in the city of Cape Coast in the South of Ghana as a case study using two main methodologies. First methodology is structured interviews with 25 local off-grid solar light solutions firms and repair workshops. Second methodology is questionnaires with 50 households. The paper challenges the claimed sustainability prism of the so called ‘leapfrogging’ model of solar electrification in the context of Global South countries struggling with energy poverty. It argues that circular economy approaches and models can be employed to shed light and identify the complex connections between solar electrification and waste regimes which are in need of further investigation.