Promoting clean energy in Tanzania

Sunday March 05 2017
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Diana Mbogo’s company provides power solutions for rural areas which are not connected to the national grid. PHOTOI COURTESY.

At just 23, Diana Mbogo did not let her busy student life stop her from achieving her dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

She is now the Chief Executive Officer at Millennium Engineers Enterprises Limited - a startup company which deals with renewable energy in Tanzania. She was able to come up with the renewable energy startup company during her third year at the university.

Currently, the 24-year-old young social entrepreneur who graduated from the University of Dar es Salaam in 2016 with a Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering is filled with passion, energy and self-drive to inspire her fellow youth.

“Across the world, universities play a crucial role in innovation ecosystems, and it is not different in Tanzania. If Tanzania is to become industrialised, then we need to empower educated young men and women to build these industries, that is how it works across the world,” Diana says.

She urges the government and everyone to recognise the need to get our business schools and engineering students to begin building companies that will strengthen the economy.

“We have to quit just training our youths to seek out jobs,” she says.

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Her startup was born as a result of an academic field project implemented in 2015, aimed at enabling the students use theories they received in classes to practically bring the knowledge and skills they achieved in the field of engineering.

“My project objective was to design and implement an ideal power solution for a government school located in an off grid and wind power potential area in Tanzania,” Diana says.

The experience and knowledge obtained led her to have interest in wind energy and tap into its potential to help in solving pressing power problems in the country.

Her company provides smart solar systems and wind turbines as standalone power solution for rural areas which are not connected to the national grid.

After only a year of operation, she has won several national and international awards including the Tanzania University Student Entrepreneur of the year 2016, best 40 startup companies around the world and managed to participate into the Global Impact Accelerator- an event which brings impactful entrepreneurs to the global market.

What made her company win?

Apart from being confident in her work, Diana says the judges were looking for four important things which constituted to fulfillment of business stages such as possession of certificate from the Business Registration Licensing Agency (Brela), a company profile, graduation from Small Industries Development Organisation (Sido) incubation and a company that employs at least five people.

Tanzania University Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards is the premier global competition for student entrepreneurs who actively run businesses. After winning in Tanzania, Diana qualified for the final competition which was held in Bangkok, Thailand.

“I was exposed to an international network of business people, investors and other startup companies worldwide. Generally, the opportunity provided my company with recognition and publicity, both nationally and internationally.”

She got to know the power of networking and interacting with the right people because it enabled her to grasp a lot of new ideas that improved her business which include marketing, financing and management.

Company background

Before establishing her company, Diana sought assistance from her parents and friends who helped her to raise capital. She later established small projects like megawatt challenge, volunteering and stock exchange investments that enabled them to generate revenue, which helped them to recover a certain portion of running costs.

Diana says working as a business consultant in renewable energy had given her a passion to become one of its players because it enabled her to promote clean, reliable and affordable energy in the country. After seeing demands of renewable energy products and services, she decided to establish a career in entrepreneurship.

Diana’s company graduated from Sido incubation, has entered into partnership with international technology companies, and has participated in national and international exhibitions.

Her research titled The Impact of Incubation Centres on Renewable Energy Technology Growth in Tanzania is expected to be published this year. Findings show that women engagement in the energy sector is less than 25%, youth are 30% something that is hindering innovation in the sector.

Her achievement and the milestones she had made has motivated and inspired many other young people especially women to venture and run businesses in the male dominated energy sector.

She cites finance and time management as major challenges her company is facing, including extra costs that come in when starting a company or business.

Diana says it was a struggle to keep pace with college and at the same time run her business.

“I had to attend classes every morning for about five to six hours then go to work until midnight,”she says adding that at times she had to travel a lot, thereby missing classes and even examinations after seeking permission from her lecturers.

She says that in order to succeed she had to use a lot of funds including for purchase of work materials, paying employee salaries and covering for work related trips. Despite all challenges, she did not allow fear to dominate any part of her life, and instead found solace from people and things that inspired her.

“I took to reading especially personal development books that helped to guide me on how to manage stressful situations and therefore helped make me a positive person; I embrace my failures as much as my success as they have made me who I am today and also taught me something new. Like they say a calm sea doesn’t make a good sailor.”

Diana believes that with the right team, any idea can be good or bad. But it’s the team that pushes the idea forward and makes it attainable. Persistence, patience, self-discipline and a clear vison can get you there. She says if you want to be a good entrepreneur, you need to be good at decision-making, take risks, have self-discipline and confidence.

She says her success is mostly attributed by her attitude towards everything, networking, learning from others and inspiring them as well. “As a student, I paid much attention to my environment and tried to learn from it as much as I could,” she says.

Her greatest inspiration is her mother who made her become what she is today. Diana fondly calls her the “think tank” because she was creative when raising them.

“When it came to study tours she made sure I travelled which made me learn different things in and outside the country. The strategies she uses to go through her life, work and family smoothly have always amazed me,” she says with a smile.

Diana says her mother is a very smart, strong and passionate woman who raised her into a confident and brave young woman that she is today. “I owe her that and much more,” says Diana.

The mother is now retired though she is a part time lecturer at the University of Dar es salaam.

Meanwhile a part from daily work, Diana says the most enjoyable aspect of her work is the fact that she gets to travel a lot, something which she enjoys doing. She has travelled to different places like Swaziland, Germany, Italy, Thailand and China among others.

She can also work from anywhere, in the office at home and with no time limits. Apart from that she says that sometimes one has to work extra time and in a harsh environment.

Diana’s day starts at 7am. After waking up she takes about 15-20 minutes for meditation then another 20 minutes for simple exercise. Afterwards she gets prepared for work and usually uses another one 1-2 hours to answer emails. She then notes down her day plans/goals

“I love music and dancing, so a night out with friends is always something I enjoy. I also love food, I try out cooking something new from time to time but a good meal anywhere is something I do often. Lastly shopping, especially buying shoes, a girl’s best friend,” she says.

Email: [email protected]