First Person: The young leader bringing clean power to Tanzanian villages
Gibson Kawago Gibson Kawago class of 2022 Young Leaders for SDGs working in his workshop where he recycles and re-uses used laptop batteries.
Mr. Kawago is the founder and Chief Technical Officer of WAGA, a company which produces solar lamps, power banks and mini-power walls, to help rural dwellers access off-grid clean and affordable energy for lighting and power solutions, and urban dwellers to cope with power cuts.
Currently, Mr. Kawago is working with Tanzanian radio station Wasafi FM, educating over 13 million people on solving digital problems and raising awareness of new technologies.
He spoke to UN News during the 2023 ECOSOC Youth Forum, which took place at the end of April.
Gibson Kawago Gibson Kawago, a member of UN Young Leaders class of 2022 from Tanzania standing in his workshop where he makes battery powered products from recycled lithium-ion batteries
‘It was hard to communicate with the outside world’
“Because there was no electricity in my village when I was growing up, those with mobile phones couldn’t charge them when the battery ran out. So, I would bring five to 10 phones with me on a bicycle, and travel around thirty miles to the nearest town with power.
But sometimes it would take two days to recharge the phones, because there was a queue. This made it very hard for people to communicate with the outside world, but we had no choice.
This made want to find solutions to this problem, of living in a community that was not connected to the electricity grid. That’s why I set up Waga, but we work together with NGOs and the government to solve the problem together.
Pizo Gibson Kawago, Young Leader for the SDGs
‘Radio is powerful’
I decided to get involved with Wasafi FM because radio is powerful. You can listen on the public transport, at home or on your mobile phone. And nowadays we can live stream online.
At the moment, I have a daily five-minute segment, where I share information about the latest trends in technology. I talk about things like internet security, explaining how young people can make their social media accounts more secure, because a lot of them don’t know how to do this. I also teach them about phishing attacks, and how to protect themselves from hackers who will try to steal their accounts.
So, I educate them on how they can secure their accounts, but also I to get them on new technologies. There are so many technologies that me as gives them I have access to and have knowledge about. But those people living in rural places who listen to radios can’t access the internet.
‘We know where we are going’
We often look to the bosses of big companies to change things, but we can also make a difference. At WAGA, we are also trying to help people to fight climate change in Tanzania with our e-mobility solutions. We make powerpacks, for example, that can turn regular motorbikes into electric bikes. But first we need to change people’s mindsets. They need to understand why it’s important to use electric bikes and, for that to happen, they need to be educated.
Young people have a lot of potential to change the world. And, as we have seen at the Youth Forum, although we come from many different backgrounds, we are united in our common aim, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
The world makes a road for those who know where they are going. And we know where we are going.”