A simple exercise to show energy inequality in Africa

Miguel standing at the event check-in table. Photo credit: Miguel A. Blancarte, Jr.

ONE Congressional District Leader Miguel A. Blancarte, Jr., made a splash at his first ONE event by using a cool trick. ONE members, take note and try it out at your next event! 

Last month, I hosted my first-ever ONE event as a Congressional District Leader in the Great Lakes area.  The “Turn On The Lights: ONE’s Energy Access in Africa” event at Bar Louie River North in Chicago, Illinois, had a great turnout. People from all walks of life, including the NGO, business and religious sectors, came out to learn why electricity is such an important part of fighting poverty. 

Check-in table

The event’s check-in table full of ONE swag. Photo credit: Miguel A. Blancarte, Jr.

One of my main objectives was putting energy poverty into perspective, which I did through a simple exercise.

Upon checking in at the registration table –which was adorned with black and white balloons (ONE’s colors) and a yellow balloon to represent electricity — I added either a red or a yellow round dot sticker to each attendant’s tag.  Everyone asked me what the stickers represented and I told them that I would explain during my presentation — which left everyone curious.

After sharing a few statistics on energy poverty, like the fact that 589 million people in sub-Saharan Africa currently live without power — I asked people to turn attention to the stickers on their name tags.

“Look around and count the number of red dots and the number of yellow dots on your tags,” I told them.

After they did, I said, “If you have a yellow dot on your name tag, consider yourself one of the few lucky ones.”

Miguel presenting

Miguel presenting on energy poverty at his event. Photo credit: Miguel A. Blancarte, Jr.

I explained that 7 out of 10 sub-Saharan Africans do not have access to electricity. If they had a red dot, they were in the majority without electricity in sub-Saharan africa.  The few yellow dots in the audience represented the minority in sub-Saharan Africa that were fortunate to have access to electricity and energy. As soon as I explained this, there was a gasp in the audience, and I felt that the message was received.

I will leave you with what I left the guests with. I do not mean to make you feel horrible about having electricity. What I want to be taken from these facts is that you have a voice and you can take action in order to rectify some of our world’s inequalities.

I urge you to continue calling and writing to your elected officials —  and encourage your friends to do the same — so that our leaders allocate necessary funds in order to end extreme poverty and illuminate Africa.

Let’s turn on the lights.

Write a letter to your member of Congress asking to pass a bill to bring electricity to 50 million Africans for the first time!

Miguel A. Blancarte, Jr. is a ONE member, a native and resident of Chicago, and a citizen of the world. He has lived in Rhode Island, Spain, Italy and Portugal. He hopes to attend law and business school to continue fulfilling his life goal of achieving justice and fairness.