Middle-aged Motswana Eunice Ntobedzi, who invented a “mobile enabled community energy management platform”, is one of the two Africans who have been nominated for the Global Innovation Award.
The Francistown College of Technical and Vocational Education (FCTVE) teacher trainer is among the 76 innovators selected from 792 entrants globally.
Ntobedzi’s innovation project called ‘Empowered’ has been selected to go through to the next stage of a Global Innovation Award. Winners of the award will be announced at an Innovative Summit to be held in Kenya in July.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, Ntobedzi identified a problem that is the lack of electricity and a solution, which is solar PV energy. She also identified the barriers, which prevent the adoption of solar PV. “The ‘mobile age’ has increased global collaboration and investment in the mobile / Internet infrastructure along with support to the institutions will speed up development,’ she says.
She adds that energy security is a cornerstone for maintaining Botswana’s economic growth, and her innovation will increase the adoption of renewable energy use and diversify the dependence on existing unsustainable energy supplies.
According to Ntobedzi, researches, which suggest that in Botswana out of 365 days in a year, there are 308 days of sunshine, though there are still power outages and the country depends heavily on power supply from South Africa, inspired her to do her own project. Research also showed her that the prices of solar equipment dropped significantly in the last 10 years and continue to do so. This innovation will benefit individuals, businesses and countries that intend to adopt the use of solar PV technologies, either rooftops or solar farms.
When the competition opened in March this year, Ntobedzi says she decided to enter since it was open for both ideas and startups.
There has been no external funding; she used her own financial resources with support from family and friends.
According to Ntobedzi, the next stage of the project will however require some seed capital and investment funding and support from mobile companies to integrate the technologies.
However there do already exist platforms of pay-as-you-go such as MyZaka, Orange Money that can be utilised. Mobile companies and banks have also taken great interest in enabling the innovation. Since the award nomination, Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) has been quick to come forward to offer congratulations and offer support to Ntobedzi.
BIH’s CEO Alan Boshwaen made a personal call in support to her. With only less than two months left for the Kenyan summit, Ntobedzi is looking forward to going to Kenya and representing Botswana and Africa.
Ntobedzi has a BSc in Computer Information Technology & Statistics from the University of Pretoria. Further to that, she also has a Graduate Diploma in Technical and Vocational Education from FCTVE.
She has also been short-listed as a Botswana Chevening Scholar and expected to secure a full scholarship in the United Kingdom (UK) at UK’s top three Entrepreneurs.