FOUNDER (S): George Mtemahanji, Manuel Rolando, Co-founder & CTO
INSPIRATION TO START THE BUSINESS
George left his home in 2003 at only nine years of age, as his mother took him to Italy in search of new work opportunities. However, eight years later he returned home, and upon seeing that the same energy problems still afflicted his hometown, he decided to find a solution. George was not only struck by how little things had changed in his place of birth, but also by how significant a lack of electricity was to the prospects for development.
At the time of his return, George was studying to be a technician in renewable energy, and the power situation within his hometown immediately struck him as a problem that his training could help to solve. He saw there was a lot of sun and thought it was really very strange that no one was doing something with solar energy. The inspiration for Sunsweet Solar was then created, so George returned to Italy to discuss his ideas with a fellow student, Manuel Rolando.
By 2013, extensive research into solar energy in Tanzania had revealed that many locals simply did not trust solar energy as a reliable source due to poor quality installations that had proved inconsistent. However, George was confident that he and Rolando were capable of designing efficient, cost-effective solar-powered systems. The pair began approaching companies for funding and found a Swiss company planning to build a photovoltaic plant (solar power plant) right in George’s hometown of Ifakara. The two young entrepreneurs offered to design and construct all the technical components of the plant for free, and their pitch was accepted.
George’s voluntary work on the Swiss photovoltaic plant was a huge success. The plant is the largest of its kind in the Kilombero district, and it powers 200 lights, dozens of computers, and can store 3 days’ worth of power. Moreover, it now proved to any other investor that Mtemahanji and Rolando had the requisite skills to meet their objectives.
BACKGROUND OF THE FOUNDER (S)
George immigrated to Italy from Tanzania when he was nine years old. When he started high school, he joined the Technical Institute of Alfredo Ferrari in Maranello (MO). The institute was founded by Enzo Ferrari with the idea to train his own mechanics and technicians from the institute.
It was here that his passion for renewable energy was born. In his third year, he started to study more about photovoltaic systems, solutions, and installations. In 2012, he graduated as a Technician of Energy Systems. After that, he started his university studies at the University of “Alma Mater Studiorum” Bologna. In 2014, George found a job in Switzerland as a technician in a photovoltaic company in the Canton of Lucerne, where he worked until December of 2014. He then returned to Tanzania to open his own photovoltaic company along with his Italian friend Manuel Rolando. It was January of 2015 when he registered his company.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BUSINESS
SunSweet Solar Limited is a Tanzanian energy company and one of the most innovative energy companies in Africa. They design and install Solar Hybrid Micro Grid Systems to supply electricity to rural communities and Smart Solar Off-Grid systems for NGO and Government facilities.
Sunsweet Solar is currently installing solar panel systems across Tanzania to communities that aren’t connected to the national grid or have frequent blackouts. This helps to provide enough electricity to support villages, schools, and health centers and to provide running water to those in need.
Their customers buy energy through their mobile phones. Until today, 95% of rural communities in Africa have had no access to electricity, and their main goal is to provide power to these areas. In order to do this, Sunsweet Solar intends to use solar generators to produce enough electricity to satisfy the entire energy demand of a village. Rural communities will have energy for their houses; medical and educational facilities and for their businesses. With their energy solution, a family living in a rural area can have electricity for just $0.15 per day and a whole village can have drinking water for only $1.20 per day. Based on solar energy, they are creating the first completely ecological and energetically independent villages in Africa.
In the two years since the firm launched, it made several important achievements. In 2015, SunSweet was chosen by the Africa Leadership Academy as one of the top 12 companies led by young entrepreneurs out of over 500 companies across Africa. The company was invited to speak with Bill Gates at the MTV ‘Bill Gates Meets African Innovators’ event in South Africa.
According to the founder, the initial challenges faced as a startup, were to obtain the legal documents such as the incorporation of the company, the taxpayer registration, and business license. He says,” We had a lot of expenses to get our legal documents to do business.” At this time, the key challenges they face are having are access to capital. It has been very difficult for them to find investors for scaling up.
To date, they estimate that their services have impacted the life of more than 28,296 people in areas where they operate. In 2016 they produced more than 11’563.2 kWh of energy from their solar systems. The firm has installed more than 100 solar systems, from small systems to the main grid systems in rural communities and more than 28,000 people have benefited directly from these installations. At Benignis Girls Secondary School, the percentage of female students who have passed the national exams increased by 13.8% and the school went into first position out of 56 secondary schools in the Kilombero district.
Their customers in the villages are saving $15 per house every month. In Michenga dispensary, a health center that provides primary health care services to more than 7 villages, thanks to their solar system they have had an increase of 133% of people who are receiving health services, especially during the night. Pregnant women who visit the dispensary for the control of their pregnancy and to receive medicines and vaccines increased from 42 women before the installation of the solar system to 86 women after the installation. The number of women who give birth in the dispensary has increased by 40%. With its low cost and easy installation, solar power their company is bringing significant benefits to millions of people in Africa.
POTENTIAL FOR SCALE-UP
Their company’s goal for the coming years is to be a micro utility company in Tanzania and then in East Africa. They are now working to obtain government certificates to install micro grid solar systems with large capacity which can supply electricity even in rural town with more than 10,000 inhabitants. To achieve this goal, their company is working with different local and international partners.