VENTURES AFRICA – With a population mainly in rural areas, and basic infrastructure either not adequately available or completely unavailable, and moreover, with a thriving renewable energy business, the most logical thing for any business owner would have been to continue to take advantage of this strong position of entrepreneurship opportunity.
Whilst certainly this opportunity has been driven forward by the high density of the population that currently resides in the rural areas, it would have been critical for Helvetic Group to continue to hold a strong entrepreneurial spirit – to continue to grow the business and improving its impressive annual turnover figures.
Nevertheless, being a successful entrepreneur is not an easy task, and to be involved in philanthropy activities that have a direct impact on your business’ bottom-line does sounds even more daunting.
Surprisingly not for Helvetic Solar/Helvetic Group founder, Mr. Patrick Ngowi, who is heavily involved in his philanthropy initiative called Light for Life (L4L) Foundation, an initiative that aims to offer basic lightning facilities to the rural households, by providing renewable energy sources such as a Solar Kit which is a Helvetic Solar Brand.
“L4L is a Solar Energy Foundation, we partner with other foundations or credible organizations like Rotary, World Vision, United Nation Foundation in anything that involves solar. It may range from information dissemination, direct solar power installations or voluntary installations.
We cite where the needs are and we provide the link on the ground to offer quality service. We do not solicit funds; we facilitate that process for our partners to work in the solar energy industry in Tanzania. This idea was a product of having worked with many foundations in the industry in Tanzania, and finding out that they wanted to help in East Africa but didn’t know where to begin.
Unfortunately, as Helvetic Group, we can’t assist them, but as L4L, we created a structure that can assist. In Africa, on the ground knowledge is essential, and following up on warranty and performance is essential. Our foundation does that,” explained Ngowi.
It is Patrick Ngowi’s passion to contribute in making the rural community bright due to the fact that more than seventy percent of the people in Tanzania live in rural areas.
And the mission of the foundation is to provide affordable green energy sources to rural communities focusing on women and pupils, through fully funded solar installations.
Large parts of the rural areas are not powered by the national grid, and the population is dominated by women and children. The foundation believes in the caring and sharing heart of a woman, and that when a woman is supported, the support is shared by the whole community
Moreover, despite the government’s effort to provide affordable and reliable power supply, still the trend and the pace show that it will still take time to satisfactorily reach the rural community with anything near adequate power supply.
“After visiting many rural parts of Tanzania and seeing the great power requirements for women and schools, I decided to donate my gross salary to provide solar for those who couldn’t afford to buy any solar products. I started donating my salary towards buying solar products for those who couldn’t afford it in 2010, and will continue to do so indefinitely,” said Ngowi, whilst outlining to this writer the main reason, and the source of funding for the appropriately named L4L Foundation.
This is a project that Patrick Ngowi is very passionate about, and he wrote the following remarks on the Light for Life Foundation website, “Having witnessed a tremendous growth of Helvetic Solar Contractors, and the birth of Helvetic Group of companies that aims at becoming the leading provider and consultant of renewable energy alternatives in east Africa; associated with a significant growth in the companies’ revenues, giving back to the community is the best thing we can do as a means of appreciating and celebrating our achievement as well as becoming responsible members of the community by contributing to making life better.
Being part of a community whose population is mainly in rural areas where most of basic infrastructure that contribute to enhancing the quality of life are either not adequately available or completely unavailable, we are driven by the urge to contribute into improving and touching someone’s life.
We believe that touching the heart of the needy is touching the heart of the creator as well, and that the ultimate achievement that one can have in this life is the extent to which one makes another human’s life better.”
Currently, the targeted area is the rural community in Tanzania and the rest of East African countries, with emphasis on women who cannot afford to acquire alternative power solution for at least their basic use which are lightening and charging their phones.
“Women all over the world are challenged by a number of obstacles that restrict their ability to play significant roles in their communities and the broader society. Light for Life Foundation installs solar systems to the less privileged women in rural parts of Tanzania.
We look at women as a major focus group because of the fact that the largest population reside in rural areas and a woman in our society is given a larger burden of caring for the whereabouts of the family such as ensuring that the family gets a daily meal, following up the progress of the children at school, caring for the sick in the family, to mention a few,” according to the foundation’s website.
The foundation also targets secondary school and primary school pupils living in rural areas to enable them to overcome the challenge of failing to do their daily revisions at night due to lack of power supply in their homes
“In recent years, the government of Tanzania invested in the education sector by ensuring that secondary schools are available in the nearest vicinity possible across the country. Most of these schools, as well as primary schools are not adequately furnished with facilities for a smooth learning environment. For pupils to be able to do their revisions at night, we are looking forward to make use of this opportunity to provide lighting facilities for this group as well.
By doing this we believe that we are investing in the future of Tanzania and boost the government’s efforts in eradicating ignorance in the country,” also according to the foundation’s website.
“Being an African woman, a wife and a mother of three, I understand the troubles that an ordinary African rural woman goes through in her day-to-day family responsibilities. Women in Africa are the key players in worrying about the daily chores of the family whereabouts such as fetching water, feeding the young ones, cooking food, cleaning the home to mention a few; and some live as single mothers while others, their husbands do not take full responsibility in providing for the family, hence making them play a role of a family’s bread winner.
This has made quite a number of women involve themselves in some entrepreneurial initiatives in an attempt to meet basic family needs. Some of these businesses do not produce large profit margins but they contribute to at least having food on the table. For those who involve themselves in doing businesses when the sun has set; a business like selling food, light is an important asset.
Education is a key for the economic growth of any nation. Our primary and secondary school pupils are at a defining moment in shaping their future and the future of our nation. Having worked as a primary school teacher for over 35 years I understand the importance of a conducive learning environment for the pupils to be able to perform well in class and achieve their academic dreams. We look at this group (those who school in rural areas) as another important area of target,” wrote Emmy Ngowi, Chairperson of Light for Life Foundation, whilst explaining why rural women and school pupil are the main priority of the foundation.
“L4L has only covered rural Tanzania at the moment. However, we have managed to work with Rotary club in donation projects in Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda,” proudly exclaimed Patrick.
This is no small feat for a foundation that has rural Tanzania as its priority, but always looking forward to extend its hand to the remaining parts of East Africa.
The foundation’s initiative is very commendable, especially when viewed as a long-term project playing its small role in addressing power problems. A report by the Confederation of Tanzania Industries, says despite government attempts to solve the power problem it’s unlikely to meet the population demand, given the current economic growth.
It is estimated that the demand for electricity in terms of population will triple from the current 14 per cent to 42 per cent by 2020. It is therefore suggested that other strategies should be adopted to increase power generation and supply.
The power demand is 800 MW. This covers 14 per cent of the population, and as a way to reach 42 per cent, 2000 MW are needed, which is equivalent to 200 per cent. There is a big challenge to reach the 3000 MW by 2020
“L4L Foundation has had a huge impact in Tanzania. We have supported over 1,000 women and over 30 schools in rural Tanzania. We have mainly donated our Helvetic Solar Kit and the impact has been tremendous. There is still a lot of work to be done and we plan to establish strong relationships with donors in order to further our mission. We are Tanzanian based and have massive experience with rural East Africa, we intend to take advantage of that,” Patrick states.
As the foundation brings impact to the community, the partners who have given them a hand in achieving their goal, include Rotary Club-UK, Rotary Club-Arusha, Lions Club – Arusha, UNESCO, UNICTR – their staff and the Chief Judge, Tour companies in Arusha, Dolly Estate USA River, Local NGOs, Mazingira Foundation and the Rwandan Ministry of Tourism.
The Vision is to significantly contribute in lighting the rural community in Tanzania and the rest of the East African community with green energy sources by the year 2025. And the foundation always uses two twitter accounts (@PatrickNgowi, @L4L_Foundation), to disseminate information about its activities, and looks forward to the future brightness of rural East Africa with eagerness.
They may not be able to do this single-handed. However, they are stakeholders in making life better in as far as provision of basic lightning is concerned. Moreover, they want to play their role in giving back to the community, and help preserve the environment.