UN recognition for Tanzanian youthful climate entrepreneur

Tanzanian climate entrepreneur Gibson Kiwago, who was recently named among 17 young leaders whose efforts are catalysing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). PHOTO | COURTESY

Summary

  • Gibson Kiwago is among 17 young leaders whose efforts are catalysing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Dar es Salaam. A Tanzanian climate entrepreneur was recently named among 17 young leaders whose efforts are catalysing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Mr Gibson Kiwago, 27, is the founder of Wanted Garage (Waga), which aims to reuse laptop batteries and provide affordable, reliable and durable lithium-ion battery solutions.

Waga produces solar lamps, power banks and mini-power walls to help rural dwellers access off-grid clean and affordable energy for lighting and power solutions, and urban dwellers access electricity during power-cuts.

Using lithium ion batteries from laptops to make other products for domestic use and replacing energy sources that use hydrocarbon makes his technology clean and affordable.

Lithium is among the critical minerals or essential mineral material that is essential in the realisation of the UN goal to ensure zero emissions by 2050 due to the global shift from fossil fuel.

Sharing his journey during an exclusive interview, Mr Kiwago said electrical engineering was basically in his blood.

He said he was involved in electronics issues from his childhood where he spent his ample time after school to work on damaged radio motherboards and enable them to function again.

His dedication to electronics saw him become a climate change entrepreneur and founder of Wanted Garage (Waga) which deal in recycling laptop batteries through production of other products.

Mr Kiwago was born in Sawala Village, Iringa Region, in 1995 and started his education journey at Upendo Primary School before joining Don Bosco Seminary for secondary education and later Ilboru Secondary School in Arusha for advanced level of secondary education which he completed in 2016.

He graduated from the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT) with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 2019.


UN champion

Every two years, the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth recognises 17 young change-makers who are leading efforts to combat the world’s most pressing issues and whose leadership is catalysing the achievement of the SDGs.

Commenting on the UN decision, Mr Kiwago said he received the news with happiness, noting that he appreciated recognition made after dedicating his time on the project.

“Only a few people understood the impact and essence. I have been energised to invest 100 percent of my energy and resources to make this project successful,” he said.

He expressed his appreciation to the UN for recognising what the work aimed at helping Tanzanians to maximise climate change mitigation.

According to him, the global body received 5,000 applications, from which 17 were selected from different countries and he’s the only Tanzanian.

“My focus in the next two years is to work hard in making sure that Tanzanians especially the youth are aware of climate change, its impacts and how it can be mitigated,” he unveiled his future plan.

Furthermore, he said the purpose is to ensure that by 2030, there should be a better universe with green solutions and technologies. He said this will help the youths unleash their potential and come up with clean and green solutions that will provide solutions to problems facing societies.

According to him, to be selected by the UN gives him hope that his technology will develop further, hinting that he is currently looking for a partner who could inject Sh50 million capital in order to scale up the business.


How the idea started

According to him, the idea of recycling laptop batteries to other products started in 2009 after experiencing power challenges at his home village.

He started making solar lamps and power banks using damaged circuits, according to him.

As he grew up, Mr Kiwago advanced the knowledge by making sure that he mastered the technology and founded own company.

He said using electrical and electronic motherboards to revive the functioning of radio, noting that sometimes he managed to catch international radio stations through the amplitude modulation (AM).

The stations, according to him, could be tuned from the sunset, but it was difficult to catch the frequencies in the afternoons, according to him.

Furthermore, Mr Kiwago said later on, he collaborated with a friend in establishing a mobile phone repair workshop using computers as an important working tool.

He said people started consulting them for different services, recalling that was the origin name of the company he was owning now, Waga.

Speaking on school life, Mr Kiwago said he spent extra hours in the physics laboratory doing experiments aimed to further develop his skills.

“Among the tools made during this level include an amplifier aimed at enabling backbenchers to closely hear and follow up teacher’s instructions,” he said.

According to him, his interests in electrical and electronics made him a poor class attendant, who missed most of class assignments.

“I spent most of my time at a small garage located in Tabata where I was taking extra courses on lithium ion and battery technology,” he said.

Furthermore, Mr Kiwago said his dream was to be an electronics engineer, however, he was advised to take electrical engineering due to its increasing potential in the employment market.

“I don’t regret now working as an electronics engineer on lithium ion batteries because it is part of my dream,” he said.


How the technology works

Providing more details, Mr Kiwago said he collects second hand laptop batteries from Kariakoo, Zanzibar and Machinga Complex.

According to him, the batteries are then broken, sorted and categorised for the purpose of making useful products like power banks, solar lamps and battery packs for domestic use.

He said battery packs can provide power to a rural home for up to 14 hours and that they could be recharged using solar sources.

“The technology creates jobs to the youth and women through provision of clean and affordable energy to the rural populations and therefore conserves the environment by reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” he said.

“The technology replaces hydrocarbon products such as diesel, petrol and kerosene lamps, something that contributes to economic growth in the country,” she added.

According to him, they are now finalising processes to take the products for official launching and use by Tanzanians in rural areas.

“We have repaired over 107 Waterproof Bluetooth James Bullough Lansing (JBL) speakers and other rechargeable devices, RED camera and LED video lights batteries. Others are electric scooters and bike battery packs for local users,” he said.

Furthermore, Mr Kiwago said they partnered with five companies on the development of customised lithium ion battery packs and research on their lifespan.

According to him, his company is now in compliance with the Business Registration and Licensing Agency (Brela), Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) who have approved the company to carry its business in Tanzania.

“We are in the final approval processes before taking our products to the market,” he said.