Kenya’s CNN ‘hero’: Africa’s high growth rates not felt at bottom of the pyramid

Is renewable energy the way to go for Africa?

This is the way to go not just for Africa, but the whole world. We cannot keep on relying on resources that will be depleted. The initial cost of investment is too high and that is what is hindering faster uptake of renewable energy. It is unfortunate that governments are reluctant to finance these projects. In Kenya the government has removed the duty on kerosene and it is still unaffordable for most people. So the government does not make money out of it and users still don’t feel relief. It is time we start channelling resources towards renewable energy.

What motivates you?

The positive impact is what motivates me. As an entrepreneur I have made mistakes like firing people that I believe I should have continued to work with. I have learnt to listen to people and learn from them.

Your future plans?

We have already launched in Malawi and have a pilot project in Uganda … as we intensify plans to move across the whole of Africa. Millions of people across the continent use kerosene. We will be designing solar lanterns to fit their needs. In Kenya we want to directly impact 500,000 people by 2015.

What advice would you give to Africa’s youth given that the majority of them are unemployed?

I would advise them to embrace entrepreneurship. As a young person, people might not listen to you or even support what you are doing, but once whatever it is you are doing begins to have an impact you will get that support. For us, this has been an advantage. Social entrepreneurship is the way to go. We have to relate to the problems we are seeing. How else will we improve education, health care and the other challenges Africa faces? People at the bottom of the pyramid are disillusioned because they cannot feel the impressive economic growth figures presented in big conferences.

The youth can play a key role in eradicating poverty. A lot of them are already doing it. I have been able to impact over 100,000 starting from scratch. This means that everybody else can do it.