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Rise of An African-Induced Innovation – Solar Powered Car in Kenya

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Kenyan student, Samuel Karumbo, has graced Kenya and Africa with an amazing solar-powered car.

Before, the history of science and technology in Africa received little or no attention compared to other regions in the world. It had become a common thing to read mostly negative things about Africa. Today, however, that conception is fast changing as African countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa are fast making their way in the technology industry.

There have been an increased number of great technological developments in Africa from startups to inventions. Though most of these innovations are emerging from the thriving of tech hubs popping up across Africa, most of the technology transforming the continent comes from elsewhere.

However, Africans can still boost of progress in the Technology industry. It is in Africa that we will hear of inventions like; Ugandan Engineers Mamaope jacket that can detect pneumonia, Cameroon’s Arthur Zang’s tablet that monitors your heartSteamaco electricity grid in Kenya that can provide electricity for a whole village.

Also, we are talking of the latest developer of a solar powered car that is making rounds in Kenya. The solar powered car was developed by a 30 year old Kenyan student Samuel Karumbo. His childhood desire to own a less expensive car motivated him to come out with this innovation – transforming dream to reality

Benefits of a Solar Powered Car

The invention of a solar powered car is practical in a continent characterized by very hot climatic conditions. The car uses energy from the conversion of the sun’s energy into electricity through the exchange of photons and electrons inside the solar cell. Thus, the availability of sun at all time during the day, gives everyone the opportunity to have this car without cost for maintenance.

A solar powered car has many benefits that make it fit for the African environment. Some of them are;

  •      It produces no harmful emission in the air when it is running
  •      Its motor is much more efficient and quiet than the gasoline engine.
  •      The motor does not produce vibrations and it is generally smaller and  maintenance free.
  •      The car is much lighter.
  •      The car does not require refueling and oil changes since it uses the sun to get its energy
  •      He said the vehicle depends heavily on gravity when on descend.
  •      The motor acts as a generator for producing energy for later use.
  •      The car can cover about 50 km in a day.
  •      This hybrid car can also be used to charge phones or provide home lighting.

In other to achieve a complete dream, Karumbo is appealing for financial support for his project.

There is always this problem of funding that always pops up. And this has been a major barrier for young inventors, creators and entrepreneurs in Africa. Unfortunately or fortunately, most funds for African technology do not come from philanthropists. They come from foreign investors who always expect returns.

Challenges faced by Young African Inventors and Creators

Access to capital

Young inventors and startups in Africa face a severe lack of capital that would allow them to grow their businesses beyond local, informal markets.

Physical infrastructure

According to Ndubuisi Ekekwe, founder of the African Institute of Technology, while rapid advances in internet penetration are improving the innovation atmosphere, basic components of infrastructure like power, roads, post offices are still severely lacking. Investments in these basic building blocks will allow businesses to expand more rapidly and make their operations more efficient.

He added that many potential foreign investors are scared away by corrupt public institutions and the seeming inability or unwillingness of African legal systems to enforce property rights and IP protection.

Most African inventions are geared towards solving the problems faced by Africans. For example, Dougbeh Chris Nyan born in Liberia  worked with Scientists both in Liberia and America to invent a battery-powered device that provides a quick and cheap test for seven different infections at a time. It is generally common to find a person in Africa diagnosed of different diseases, thus making the invention Africa-induced.

African governments should encourage young creators and inventors to bring inventions that will come to solve an African problem. This will lead to Africa’s rise in Technology in the nearest future.

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Afro Success Stories

African Entrepreneurs creating Jobs and Employment in Their Communities – Olasupo Abideen

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Olasupo Abideen ” My greatest achievement is being a 25yr old employer who employs 35 people and has trained 475 Others” as one of african entrepreneurs.

Meet Olasupo

I am a 25year old one of Nigerian african entrepreneurs, founder/CEO of OPAB Gas with over 6 years of transnational experience leading and working with diverse teams to facilitate youth empowerment, development projects and youth involvement in policy. I am a UNESCO ESD Young Leader, a WEF Global Shaper and a Fellow, Young Africa Leadership Initiative.

Since receiving the $5000 Seed Capital in December 2018, my Company has created employment for thirty-five (35) University undergraduates (through our Work Student and Student Ambassadorship Program), opened ‘four (4) new Gas stores’, and trained ‘four hundred and seventy-five (475) unemployed youth and corps members‘ (through our #Gasprenuer Initiative). As a means of giving back to the community, we have also helped ‘five (5) kids’ return to school through our #StreetToSchool programme for our Community.

My Humble Beginnings

I watched my mother walk long distances to gather firewood and buy coal to cook for my family in my growing up years in my village in south-west Nigeria, where I was raised. It wasn’t peculiar to my mother; this was commonplace for all families. We all knew it wasn’t safe. We knew that if it made them this uncomfortable, there was no way it was safe, but we didn’t know there were alternatives. After all, this is how our grandparents and their parents before them lived.

It bothered me to see my mother’s red eyes, and the wet eyes of other women in our rural community bothered me a lot. Even though I did not know until recently that cooking with firewood is equivalent to smoking 400 cigarettes per hour, and is one of the three causes of mortality among women and children, I knew there had to be something I could do, but I couldn’t figure it out; or better put, I did not have enough education nor access to information to figure it out.

 

My Business Idea

The Idea to start my business came from a need that I identified and solving that problem meant a business opportunity. As a student of chemistry at the University of Ilorin, I was exposed – through volunteering – to MDGs (and subsequently SDGs), and I took a keen interest in clean, renewable energy, that could be used instead of orthodox fuelling options, and one of them was Liquefied Petroleum Gas.

After a long time of advocacy for SDGs, as an undergraduate, my SDGs advocacy and youth development organization, Brain Builders International, signed an agreement with the Kwara State University’s Community Development and Entrepreneurship Centre to train young Nigerians african entrepreneurs on the Sustainable Development Goals, their benefits, and ways toward actualisation.

I noticed that every time I took the 55min trip to Kwara State University to facilitate these training sessions, I would encounter students carrying gas cylinders: either going to fill Gas in Ilorin or coming back from Ilorin after filling Gas. I later learnt that the only cooking gas supplier in the community at that time was exploiting the students by using a manual scale that could be manipulated and also selling at a rip-off price.

 

Solving the Problem

In 2017, I took a soft loan from a friend, added some of my own moneyand after conducting intense market research, filing necessary papers, and satisfying ethical and professional standards, we opened our first OPAB Gas station. The services we offered hinged on three things; convenience, safety, and trust. Students could now focus on academics, as we did not only sell gas at the standard rate, but we also offered pick-up and delivery services. We used safe measures alongside a digital scale to address the issue of trust. Within three months we had broken even.

The TEF Intervention

In 2018, I applied for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme but was only selected for the GIZ list to be one of the 210 beneficiaries of the training and $5000 funding. The training provided by the foundation on business planning, financial intelligence, scalability, among others could only be likened to a mini MBA.

Immediately after the training myself and my team we started discussing how to dominate the market in which we operate and capture new markets.

With the seed capital, we were able to expand our business.

 

Our Growth and Milestones as one of african entrepreneurs

  • Expansion: We have expanded the business to 6 stations in two townships to target the student populations and made over $25,000 since receiving the seed capital from the foundation.
  • Employment: Staff strength – 2 (in 2017), 35 people (2019).
  • Gas on Wheels: We now own delivery vans and offers delivery services
  • Digitization: We now take orders on the business’ website in both cities where we operate.
  • Introduced Customer Loyalty service
    • Health safety card – to educate users about safety measures.
    • Customer reward: Points reward system.
    • Holiday Promos
  • we also have a few impact initiatives that we run.
  • OPAB Gas has trained 450 Youth Corps members, unemployed youth in Kwara State on the economic merits of the Gas economy and the many opportunities that abound in the sector.
  • In line with the UN SDGs, OPAB student work experience – an internship programme where we train students. During this internship, they work on Sundays for a stipend. They then receive N10,000 for every 1000kg of gas sold.
  • OPAB gas student ambassador scheme – delivery service.

 

The Future

The vision for OPAB Gas has always been to solve energy availability and ease of use for everyone across Nigeria so we are constantly working on ways to reach out to more Nigerians.

Our OPAB telemetry solution will allow people to monitor and manage their gas usage, notify them when it is almost finished, connect them to the nearest gas stations and pay for gas with existing mobile money applications.

 

 

Contact Details

Website: https://opabgas.com

Instagram: @opabgas_

Phone call/WhatsApp: 07068775529.

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