(EnergyAsia, February 22 2012, Wednesday) — Up to 33 million people living in poverty in Africa and Asia will gain access to low-cost solar energy by 2016, said solar power provider ToughStuff in response to a call from the Business Call to Action (BCtA).

From its headquarters in Mauritius and offices in East, West and Southern Africa, ToughStuff seeks to expand access to low-cost, durable solar panels and solar battery packs to low-income communities in 10 African countries— Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, South Sudan,   Zambia and Zimbabwe— and four Asian countries—Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal in the next four years.

The company expects to help consumers who previously relied on kerosene or biomass fuel to save a combined total of US$520 million on lower energy costs while reducing carbon emissions by up to 1.2 million tonnes by 2016.

The BCtA is a global initiative that encourages private sector efforts to fight poverty, supported by several international organisations including the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Susan Chaffin, Programme Manager for the BCtA, said:

“Companies like ToughStuff invest in communities by providing cleaner, healthier energy options through core business operations. This commitment will help to boost development and improve social equity in a sustainable way that is good for the environment and good for business.”

According to Toughstuff, nearly half the world’s population lacks reliable access to modern energy services, with more than 20% of the global population, or 1.4 billion people, remain without access to electricity.

Most are in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, depending on wood, charcoal, animal waste or biofuels such as kerosene for energy. By 2030, household air pollution from the use of biomass fuel is expected to cause more than 1.5 million deaths a year, according to a recent UNDP report.

ToughStuff said it aims to reduce the impact of lack of energy access for millions of people by bringing its solar-powered products directly to low-income communities through commercial and alternative trade channels including its “Business in a Box” model, which relies on a network of village-level entrepreneurs that are provided with training on how to sell, rent or provide access to affordable solar energy services and products.

Since its launch in 2009, ToughStuff has helped to create thousands of new business opportunities for rural entrepreneurs. Its products have reached over one million people in Madagascar, helping customers save over US$5.85 million in energy costs.

“Today’s ambitious goal underlines ToughStuff’s commitment to produce quality and affordable products that will change the lives of millions of people living off-grid globally,” said Andrew Tanswell, CEO of ToughStuff.

“To make this happen, and at the scale we intend, we are actively building commercial partnerships with large distributors, telecommunications companies, retailers and others with an interest in bringing energy, along with all of its benefits, to those who don’t yet have it.”