It’s a sure way for developing cities to create safer streets and more jobs (and lower electricity bills) in their rapidly expanding street networks.
In Uganda, urban populations are skyrocketing. Annual growth rates measure around 3% in cities like Kampala and Jinja, and people are increasingly moving from rural to urban areas. On the surface, this is good for the economy. But what’s happening in these Ugandan cities is money for basic public services, especially in the informal settlements that have developed across the cities, is stretching thin.
The financial strain of rapid urbanization affects everything from road maintenance to construction, but a team of researchers at the University of Leeds focused on one issue in particular: street lighting. “Lighting is absolutely something we take for granted in the cities where it exists,” says Lucy Oates, coauthor on the report and research fellow at Leeds’ School of Earth and the Environment. But the team at Leeds makes the case that comprehensive lighting in urban areas is crucial for a strong economy—and can be accomplished much more affordably than in years past due to advances in solar and LED technology. While this study focuses specifically on Ugandan cities, similar benefits have played out in places like Detroit, where, after decades of coping with broken lights, foot traffic in neighborhoods is up 15% thanks to new LEDs, and businesses are reporting gains.