Three young African talents awarded for their innovative ideas

The winning ideas aim to address the major challenges that hamper Africa’s full development

The electrification of a health centre through renewables, a solar-powered fridge to support the cold chain of farmers, and a platform to empower women through renewable energy: these are the three projects that won the 2020 Micro-Grid Academy Young Talent of the Year Award. The three winners are Norah Magero and Elly Kevin Oriko, both from Kenya, and Eileen Phoebe Lara from Uganda, and their achievement was announced this morning by Salvatore Bernabei, President of the RES4Africa Foundation.

The Award was launched last summer by the RES4Africa Foundation, the promoter of the Micro-Grid Academy, thanks to the support of Enel Green Power: the main aim of the initiative was to reward young African talents who, thanks to particular projects and initiatives, seek to address the major environmental and social challenges that hamper the full development of African countries.

“These Micro-Grid Academy students were able to make the most of the training they received, they demonstrated to be able to return and amplify the knowledge they acquired by creating a real project to bring a concrete impact in their communities” states Salvatore Bernabei, “They demonstrated their ability to think out of the box, to be the change that is needed, and I’m glad today to announce the winners of the first edition. Congratulations Eileen, Elly and Norah: you have demonstrated that empowering the youth means empowering the development of entire communities”.

The Award was open to young African innovators from the Micro-Grid Academy network who had launched RE-related innovative ideas in their community. Among the projects received, the three winning ones were selected for their ingenuity and their potential positive impact.

Through RE for Cold Rural Chain, Norah Magero submitted her idea for “Koyo”, a 50-litre solar-powered fridge/freezer which, thanks to its contained size and affordability, is ideal for smallholder dairy and poultry producers of products to avoid food loss. Moreover, Koyo comes with a battery than can be used also to charge phones and light homes in rural areas, with a positive impact on home economy, security and education. Norah Magero came up with this idea after coming in contact with the Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach during the Micro-Grid Academy session she attended: Koyo would allow to stock and avoid food loss, and could also enable the transportation of Covid-19 vaccinations to rural areas as it can be mounted on motorbikes or even bicycles. Read more

Elly Kevin Oriko, on the other hand, led a working group of four people (all of whom attended MGA sessions) who proposed an electrification solution for the Juja Farm Health Centre Plan through renewable energy. This health centre provides an essential service in the area, serving up to 60 people a day, but the unreliability of the power supply through the grid made the use of a diesel generator necessary to ensure a constant flow of electricity to the delicate and life-saving health equipment. Elly Kevin Oriko and his team thus analysed the possibilities and proposed the best solution to power the health centre through a cleaner, cheaper and immediately available source: the sun. He then involved other students from the MGA in the installation of the system, offering them the possibility of taking part in a real case study, while being actors of an initiative with a huge social impact. Read more

Finally, Eileen Phoebe Lara proposed the work of the WREA (Women in Renewable Energy Association), which aims to increase women awareness and involvement in the renewable energy sector, with a particular focus on women in rural areas to achieve gender empowerment. Capacity building, awareness raising, student engagement and mentorship: all these are carried out in order to reach the goal. A particular area of action of the association is on the realization of briquettes, through which women can aim to reach financial independence while significantly curbing local deforestation. Read more

Through the Micro-Grid Academy, the RES4Africa Foundation aims to play its part in the achievement of access to energy (SDG 7), quality education (SDG 4) and gender equality (SDG 5) by ensuring quality training opportunities. The Award was launched in order for particularly forward-thinking participants to to scale up their projects and activities, and as the Award has proven to be a appreciated initiative, it will be replicated in 2021.