Kenya’s CNN ‘hero’: Africa’s high growth rates not felt at bottom of the pyramid

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Evans Wadongo shot to international fame after he was named one of the top ten CNN Heroes in 2010. His project replaces kerosene lamps with solar-powered LED lanterns across villages in rural Kenya. CNN Heroes honours everyday people changing the world. Born in rural Kenya, the 26-year-old electronic and computer engineering graduate is the executive director of Sustainable Development for All Kenya (SDFA-Kenya) where he literally lights up people’s lives. How we made it in Africa’s East Africa correspondent Dinfin Mulupi chats with Wadongo to find out what makes this social entrepreneur tick.

How has your life been since you were named one of the CNN Heroes for 2010?

A lot of things have changed. Since then I have won multiple other awards including the inaugural Mikhail Gorbachev Awards for ‘Man who changed the world’ alongside CNN founder Ted Turner; Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Schwab Foundation for 2011, and I was named among ‘20 Men who will shape the next 20 years’ by UK’s Esquire magazine in 2011. I have also been selected to carry the Olympic torch in London.

It has been overwhelming. I moved from receiving ten emails to 10,000 emails a day. It has also opened up opportunities. For instance, I have had the opportunity to travel to many different countries and I am involved in mentoring people around the world. I am teaching other organisations how to impact people at the bottom of the pyramid using sustainable projects.

Tell us more about what your organisation does

We are a social enterprise involved in sustainable projects surrounding renewable energy. Our main project is called ‘Use Solar, Save Lives’. Through this project we locally make solar lanterns, called Mwanga Bora (Swahili for ‘better light’), and distribute to poor rural communities. We then help them set up income generating activities using the money they previously spent on buying kerosene.

Source: How We Made it in Africa (link opens in a new window)

Base of the Pyramid