Twenty-seven-year-old Kenyan Evans Wadongo has been named one of the “35 Innovators Under 35” by MIT’s influential Technology Review magazine, alongside Pebble inventor Eric Migicovsky and Morgan Quigley, the creator of the standardised open source robotics programming language ROS.
Wadongo won the award for his social entrepreneurship with Sustainable Development for All, and specifically for the development of solar-charged lanterns using LED bulbs which have transformed the lives of people in rural villages by reducing the reliance on dangerous kerosene lamps.
Wadongo bought 30 lamps from the US and gave them away to women in the village of Chumvi, who used the money they saved on buying kerosene every week to create a local microlending service and start businesses making bead jewellery. With the profits from these enterprises, the women bought another batch of lamps to sell on and went on to create a network of similar small, successful entrepreneurs.
It was Wadongo’s experiences of growing up in villages like this that gave him the insight to create these networks. From the awards site:
As a child, Wadongo struggled to study by the dim, smoky light of a kerosene lantern that he shared with his four older brothers. His eyes were irritated, and he often was unable to finish his homework. “Many students fail to complete their education and remain poor partly because they don’t have good light,” says Wadongo, who speaks slowly and softly.
(Hat tip HumanIPO)