On this week’s episode of African Voices, CNN International meets a 19-year-old entrepreneur who features on Forbes Africa’s ’30 under 30’ list.
Leroy Mwasaru, founder of Greenpact, focuses on providing clean, renewable energy. Mwasaru proudly tells CNN about his vision for Africa: “My Africa is sustainable, my Africa is a land of opportunities, my Africa is a land of leadership.”
Personal experiences shaped the career Mwasaru would eventually pursue. Mwasaru remembers how his high school had a faulty sewer system which was polluting the nearby water stream, he tells CNN how he overcame the obstacle.
“I used to have this habit of walking around school with a notebook trying to write down different problems that I see… While it [the school] was undergoing its expansion, it was building a new dormitory… I thought to myself had to be done quick and so I came together with my classmates and devised a solution for it.”
After pouring over advanced science textbooks the school children discovered biogas digestors could get rid of the waste and turn it into energy.
“We did our first prototype which wasn’t successful, so we had to iterate a different version. So, this was how the Greenpact idea was born, and it was upon us getting our first funding from Innovate Kenya, an innovation competition that we applied to and ended up getting first prize for… we were the youngest participants… grownups would not expect that 16-year-olds would come up with such a solution. [It] made me a problem lover, which is a really important trait that kept me rolling.”
In 2015, Mwasaru launched Greenpact. The aim of the clean energy company, as Mwasaru explains, is to: “Install innovative biogas systems to small scale farmers, institutions, children’s homes… my goal is to become the leading provider of biogas energy solutions across Africa. Not only do we want to be the provider of biogas but also you know roll out to different renewable solution like solar… it’s been a humbling process, a journey that has taught me any things.”
Mwasaru’s innovation and entrepreneurial skills have provided him with a spot on this year’s ‘Forbes 30 under 30 in Africa’. He tells CNN: “The Forbes 30 under 30 list, being one of the four Kenyans, and being the youngest Kenyan on the list, to me, this is more of a sign to my fellow youth that yes it can be done.”
Mwasaru goes on to explain: “For me, it’s important to show the other youth and older generations that yes, we are able to do what we do, given a platform, giving us the right direction… the right form of education. We will be able to get to a state where we will be the people solving African problems. Not other people solving our African problems.”
Being a successful entrepreneur at 19 comes with challenges and pressure as Mwasaru states: “The hardest bit that comes with the work that I do is more or less the expectations from society that as much as I wish I don’t have those types of responsibilities at this young age I know it’s a calling for me and it’s something I’ve come to learn that my wellness is very important to how I cope with that… I have a lot of alone time with myself to think through the day.”
After giving a speech at the Ideal Conference, a conference for top private schools, Mwasaru tells CNN what he hopes the students will take from his speech: “One of the things I personally wanted through my keynote speech to the youth… It’s not just about activism for the environment. It’s also about acting, and I think this is a very good step for them to be able to get intimate with the environment.”
Mwasaru’s dedication and passion is clear through the work he does to turn Africa green, he says: “To me, Africa has the biggest potential in adopting green energy. I wouldn’t say I’m great, I’m just in the position where I’m able to influence many lives and power different local communities socio-economically… those have been my small wins, but those small wins at the end of the day, I count.”
African Voices is sponsored by Globacom