+
Most Shared

He figured out a way to bring clean, affordable power to people who were off the grid.

A young technician is lighting up the lives of those who don't have electricity.

True
Microsoft Philanthropies

Imagine what the world would look like if industrialized countries had skipped the age of fossil fuels and gone directly to solar power.

Our infrastructure, way of life, and environment would be radically different.


Image via iStock.

That’s the future 23-year-old entrepreneur George Mtemahanji envisions for his home country of Tanzania.

Image via SunSweet Solar, used with permission.

Of the more than 51 million people living in Tanzania, 70% don't have electricityat all, either because they’re not connected to the energy grid, or, if they are, they still don't have electricity due to poor connections and frequent outages.

Mtemahanji knows firsthand what it's like to live without electricity.

He grew up studying by kerosene light and going to bed at 8 p.m. (the sun goes down in Tanzania at 6 pm).

"I understand very well the discomfort that people who have no electricity have," he told Upworthy via email. "I was born at night in a clinic without electricity, and so I was born with the light of the moon. My mom always told me that she had to wait [until] the next day to see me, she knew I was born healthy because I weighed nearly 4kg, but she could only see me the next morning. ...I was born and I lived without electricity and I know what it means, for this I decided to use all my knowledge to light up the lives of all those who do not have electricity."

In 2003, Mtemahanji moved to Italy with his mother and became a technician in renewable energy before going to work in Switzerland. By 2014, he’d saved up enough to return to Tanzania, where he started a business with a friend, Manuel Rolando.

The business they started is called SunSweet Solar Limited, and it has the potential to solve three major problems at the same time.

Solar power seemed to Mtemahanji and Rolando like the perfect way to resolve a few different problems simultaneously — (1) bringing electricity to people who needed it, (2) in areas that were mostly poor, and (3) without contributing to climate change.

SunSweet Solar designs, plans, and constructs solar photovoltaic systems, water pumping systems, street light systems, and off-grid lighting.

Image via SunSweet Solar, used with permission.

SunSweet Solar's first contract involved installing a solar power plant at a secondary school that could run 236 lights, dozens of computers, and fans.

The project was challenging, but it was also a success, and Mtemahanji was curious to see how having electricity affected the students.

He wasn't disappointed; he says that since SunSweet Solar's installation last year, national exam performance at Benignis Girls Secondary School increased from 81% to 94%.

Mtemahanji attributes at least some of that success to the introduction of electricity.

"This result shows that studying in a serene environment where electricity is always present, can help a lot to improve the quality of education."

In addition to big projects like the Benignis school, the company sells solar kits and installs larger scale solar systems.

The plan originally was to sell solar kits capable of powering a few lightbulbs and charging a phone to individual households, but SweetSun Solar has since changed its model: nNow they install single solar systems that can satisfy the energy demands of a whole village.

Image via SunSweet Solar, used with permission.

SunSweet Solar customers pay for the solar setup in installments through their phones, and it costs them about $0.13 a day. The government of the village earns 5% of the revenue to assist in the development of the village.

Image via SunSweet Solar, used with permission.

In October 2015, SunSweet Solar was selected as one of the 12 best companies led by young Africans‎ by the Anzisha Prize, an award celebrating young African entrepreneurs.

Since the award, sales have skyrocketed, and SunSweet Solar now faces a new challenge: how to keep up with demand. The company gets requests from about four villages every month, each village with an average of 30 customers/houses. Mtemahanji and Rolando are currently looking for investors so that they can scale up their business.

Mtemahanji says it can be discouraging because it seems like many investors want to work with Western and Asian companies operating in Africa rather than directly with Africans.

"We must be content with the funds that we can have through the seed and prizes. But many of these funds help to support the company, not to scale up. I am confident, however, that this situation will change soon as possible, and we are ready for that moment."

True

Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!

However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!

Keep ReadingShow less
popular

Artist captures how strangers react to her body in public and it's fascinating

Haley Morris-Cafiero's photos might make you rethink how you look at people.

Credit: Haley Morris-Cafiero

Artist Haley Morris-Cafiero describes herself on her website as "part performer, part artist, part provocateur, part spectator." Her recent project, titled "Wait Watchers" has elements of all her self-descriptors.

In an email to us, Morris-Cafiero explained that she set up a camera in the street and stood in front of it, doing mundane activities like looking at a map or eating gelato. While she's standing there she sets off her camera, taking hundreds of photos.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Co-Op and Pixabay

Co-op CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq.

The CEO of Co-op, one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains has made an important statement about excess at a time when many families are struggling in the UK.

The Daily Mail reports that Shirine Khoury-Haq, the head of a company with over 3900 retail locations says she’s giving her twin, six-year-old daughters one present each this Christmas because she could not “in good conscience” give them more while millions of families struggle with inflation and high energy prices.

Khoury-Haq makes over £1 million ($1,190,000) a year after bonuses, so she pledged to give her family's present money to those in need. “It just feels like excess, given what’s happening in the world. In good conscience, I can’t do that in my own home,” Khoury-Haq said according to The Guardian.

“The rest of our budget will be given to Santa to provide presents for children whose parents can’t contribute to the elves,” she continued. “We’re going to go out shopping for those other presents and [we will] send them to Santa.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Someone asked strangers online to share life's essential lessons. Here are the 17 best.

There's a bit of advice here for everyone—from financial wisdom to mental health tips.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Failure is a great teacher.

It’s true that life never gets easier, and we only get continuously better at our lives. Childhood’s lessons are simple—this is how you color in the lines, 2 + 2 = 4, brush your teeth twice a day, etc. As we get older, lessons keep coming, and though they might still remain simple in their message, truly understanding them can be difficult. Often we learn the hard way.

The good news is, the “hard way” is indeed a great teacher. Learning the hard way often involves struggle, mistakes and failure. While these feelings are undeniably uncomfortable, being patient and persistent enough to move through them often leaves us not only wiser in having gained the lesson, but more confident, assured and emotionally resilient. If that’s not growth, I don’t know what is.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

Cuban immigrant’s reaction to getting his first American paycheck has gone viral

Before coming to the U.S. last year, Diaz made $12 a month as a computer science teacher in Cuba.

The Cuban and American flags.

An Instagram post featuring Yoel Diaz, a recent Cuban immigrant, is going viral because it shows a powerful example of something many of us in America take for granted. The freedom to earn a paycheck for a day of honest labor.

In the video, Diaz is ecstatic after he opens his first paycheck after getting a job as a seasonal worker for UPS. CBS reports that before coming to the U.S. last year, Diaz made $12 a month as a computer science teacher in Cuba.

"This is my first hourly paycheck that I feel every hour counted," he told CBS News. "That every hour of work has importance in my life and that I know I can work hard for something. I can't compare that emotion with anything. Because I never had that in my country."

The new job was a big change from life in Cuba where he had trouble filling his refrigerator. He told CBS News that sometimes he only had two items: "Water, water, water, five, ten eggs, water."

Keep ReadingShow less