Because the world needs them, Ventures Africa presents “Climate Saviours”: Evans Wadongo

“Unlike some Western countries that have invested heavily in ‘dirty energy’ over the decades, African countries with emerging markets have the chance to easily move into the use of clean energy, because they haven’t developed the tradition of fossil energy sources on a large scale… Germany is already shutting down some of its coal plants and this is something that needs to be encouraged across the world.”

Evans Wadongo is a multiple award-winning Kenyan engineer and innovator, known for his exceptional contribution to electricity generation in his country through the production of LED lamps (MwangaBora – “good light”) at the age of 19. He was also recognised as one of CNN’s top ten heroes in 2010. His technology is improving the lives of the people in his country, as well as other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Growing up, Wadongo depended on the poor light from kerosene lamps to read and decided he was going to incite change in this sector. Soon after he discovered the adverse effects of kerosene on both humans and the environment, he was driven to find ways to provide cleaner solutions for everyone.

Wadongo is a graduate of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and is currently the co-founder of GreenWize Energy, a company focused on renewable energy products and solutions. He is also the founder of the award-winning non-governmental organisation, Sustainable Development for All. His personal collection of awards include the Mikhail Gorbachev Award for “The Man Who Changed the World” as well as Esquire Magazine’s one of the 20 Men Who Will Shape the Next 20 Years.

Today, the world is in need of more people like him to help spread awareness about the importance of climate change mitigation, especially in developing countries and Africa. He features on Ventures Africa as a “climate saviour,” based on his unwavering dedication to improving living conditions on the planet.

Ventures Africa (VA): What are the chances that drastic climate change can account for depletion of the sources of renewable energy, just like every other natural resource?

Evans Wadongo (EW): Climate change has an effect on how these resources are generated in the long run because they depend on the climate conditions in a particular region is. For example, we have regions where there are many sunny days in a year and if that changes, it means that the amount of solar energy that they can generate reduces. If we do not do something about it, eventually, these renewable sources would be affected by changes in the climate.

VA: What is your opinion on Africa’s present reliance on fossil fuels and how does it relate to economic development?

EW: The reliance on fossil fuel is something that we can move away from in Africa because it is easier for us to move to cleaner energy sources. Africa has not invested as heavily in fossil fuels as some countries in the West, which have been doing so for decades. As most of the countries on the continent are developing, we have a chance to move away from dirty to cleaner energy sources.

However, it is impractical to say that we can entirely avoid the use of fossil fuels for now because we currently need them for economic growth and development. Still, this can change over time and we can establish a mechanism where we reinvest some of the proceeds from the fossil fuels into more sustainable means of generating energy and power.

VA: What, would you say, is Africa’s greatest barrier in achieving 100 percent renewable energy reliance?

EW: That would depend on how African governments prioritise. They are usually more concerned in achieving higher economic growth at any expense, but you still have millions of people who are living in poverty. They haven’t prioritised investing in renewable energy because they think that it is something that they can leave in the pipelines for the future.

Also, there’s also the perception that some of the new, clean energy sources are more expensive, but that is changing with the advancement in technology. We are now seeing some of these sources to be cheaper and a good example of this would be the geothermal sources.

VA: Agriculture in a renewable energy-oriented planet versus in a fossil fuel-consumed one?

EW: Renewable is what makes economic sense for any persons involved, be they farmers or investors. The problem is the initial cost of investment, because it’s easier to use already existing solutions. However, people are coming up with new methods to process their food with renewable energy sources. If the technology continues to improve, eventually we will see more people getting educated about the importance of investing in renewable energy for agriculture.

VA: Your company, GreenWize, focuses on green energy solutions for the good of people and the environment. What roles would you urge other individuals like you to play in order to save the planet?

EW: First, we need to continue to try to work with other businesses, to educate them on the need to use more sustainable energy sources. For us, we try to reach out to companies to tell them, “you need to improve your manufacturing processes.” As we do this, we hope to show them the economic sense in switching to cleaner energy by proving that they can make savings by doing so and encouraging them do more. Also, it should not just be about the public sector, we also need to get the private sector involved.

More importantly, we need to be able to talk to the next generation, our youth, so that climate change and sustainability is something of concern to them. That means that they can bring that culture into their businesses and workplaces, particularly the entrepreneurs. When we have more people concerned about the same issue, then we can drive more change.

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