A recent nomination for the 2013 Young African Person of the Year Award – A Future Awards and African Union (A.U.) sponsored Award put Patrick Ngowi in my sights; more so as he shares my birth-year. A cursory look around, and I discover he has also been named one of Forbes Ten Young African Millionaires to Watch in 2013 via his company, Helvetic Group and the Forbes 2013 – 30 Under 30: Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs for his work with Helvetic Solar Contractors.
Born in 1985 in Northern Tanzania, Patrick Ngowi’s humble beginnings served only to spike the entrepreneur within. The son of two Tanzanian Primary School Teachers, Patrick had his primary education in Botswana and South Africa where his father worked before returning to Tanzania for a secondary education.
At the age of 15, Patrick embarked on his entrepreneurial journey, and never looked back thence. The teenager rallied fuel station pump attendants in his hometown of Arusha, Tanzania to sell recharge cards – vouchers, a venture which he recalls was quite profitable.
At the age of 18, on the threshold of adulthood, while waiting for his University admission-a period that most teens spend frolicking- Patrick was starting a new venture…trading in mobile phones. With a loan from his mother and a free return ticket to Hong Kong, he was soon making regular trips to stock up his merchandise, and the rest they say, is history. He discovered that the buyers of his phone had problems with charging it, and the light bulb once again went off in his head.
Patrick discovered and fell in love with the unquantifiable uses and long term opportunities available in utilizing solar energy. From 2005-2008, he studied Renewable Energy, Renewable Energy Technology at Dezhou University, China, subsequently setting up his own office, and doing all installations himself. That little office has since become the fastest growing network and equity holder in Renewable Energy Companies across East Africa, handling supply, installation and maintenance of renewable energy, and also conducting feasibility power studies. The Helvetic Group jointly has a turnover in millions of dollars and operates across East Africa.
Helvetic Solar Contractors has installed over 5,800 small and medium scale solar power and solar water heating systems in Tanzanian government institutions, United Nations works, homes, schools, clinics, dispensaries, hospitals, off grid lodges and hotels in Tanzania. They have also been awarded contracts in neighbouring countries like Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
Completely committed to going green and renewable energy, Patrick founded The Light for Life Foundation, a non-profit social initiative that provides free solar power to women in rural Tanzania. The foundation enables them to create new income for themselves ranging from running their businesses for longer hours in the evenings and at night, providing security lighting overnight and providing them with a new income source from charging mobile phones and other small mobile devices. With over 100 systems already installed, its goal is to provide 1,000 systems for women in rural Tanzania, growing businesses and creating value in having a strong business network across the region.
Patrick Ngowi also sits as a board member and advisor to several local and multi-national companies in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda and serves as a mentor to fellow young entrepreneurs through Ashish Thakkar’s Mara Foundation in Tanzania.
In an interview with The African Business Journal, Patrick states that his greatest achievement is “Being able to provide much needed employment for my fellow citizens, and at the same time, lighting up some rural parts of Tanzania with solar power. As well as contributing towards Tanzania’s advance in renewable technology.”
The young man also had this nugget of wisdom to share: “Knowledge is invaluable and discipline towards work cannot be substituted. I was taught on the importance of discipline and hard work. There was no reward without effort.” (Via Ventures Africa)
From Patrick we learn the indices of identifying and taking advantage of an opportunity. Almost a decade ago, he saw a need and came up with a solution. Whose problem are you solving?