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The power of lighting: How LEDs are helping to transform communities



The most memorable football match I’ve ever had the privilege of watching took place a few weeks ago in Ghana. It was dark, more so than usual because the sky was moonless, but the pitch was bathed in bright, white light. Sounds unremarkable but it was actually the first time the players had ever experienced playing under artificial light. The community, too, had never seen live sport at night and the pitch had never hosted this many people after the sun had set.

Watching or playing live sport at night is something we take for granted in the West but here in Africa, the seemingly simple act of erecting four portable lampposts that support strings of solar-powerful LED streetlights has had an unbelievably transformative effect on people.


It’s all part of an initiative called Community Light Centres, a project that we have pioneered across the world, in Asia and South America, too. In partnership with the Netherlands Royal Football Association, we travel with top soccer coaches to isolated communities and help them stage matches and conduct skills training when the sun sets.


But this project is much more than just lighting a pitch. It is a small-scale transformation of a community.


Light gives these people a renewed sense of belonging; a freedom that’s difficult to comprehend. Because the lights are solar-powered, the energy that is generated in the daytime and saved up can constitute the basis for a mini-grid, supplying power to the surrounding households.

Festive football matches of this type take place often during my company’s unique annual African Roadshow, in which Philips employees journey across the continent listening to governments, charities, NGOs and small communities about how they think technology can add meaning to their lives, which products will really improve their health and well-being, and how we as a company can empower individuals.

This year alone we travelled to 16 cities in 12 countries across the continent – including first-time visits to Zimbabwe, Senegal and Burkina Faso – where we announced, amongst other projects, the creation of 82 new Community Light Centres.


In 2050, Africa will be the source of half of the world’s growth so it’s vital that a company like Philips is there to help nations achieve their potential because meaningful innovation changes lives. Four pillars and a box full of intelligent lights changes lives. It seems obvious but unless you start by asking the right questions, you’ll never come up with the right answers.


And experiencing that football match with its life-affirming atmosphere reinforced my belief that Philips is a global innovation company that truly asks the right questions.

Ronald de Jong  

Executive Vice President, Chief Market Leader and member of the Executive Committee

Ronald de Jong joined Philips in 1990. He held a number of positions in Supply and Service Operations and Supply Chain Management before becoming Managing Director and Member of the Board of Philips GmbH in Hamburg in 2004.


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