Young African of the Week: Patrick Ngowi

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By Blossom Charity Ukoha

From selling China-made cell phones with a loan of $1,800 from his mother, sponsored to China by one of his close friends and now the founder of one of the fastest growing networks of renewable energy companies in East Africa, Patrick Ngowi has at different times been featured on CNN, Forbes, BBC and The Huffington Post winning several awards for making a remarkable contribution in the power sector.

As it is widely known that lack of electricity is one of the most important questions on the agenda of many African governments. Tanzania’s electric power grid meets only 10% of the population’s electricity needs. The problem is that the lack of electricity negatively impacts most companies, government agencies and wealthy families that depend on electrical generators.

Fortunately, Tanzania, a country with over 45 million people, got favoured by one young entrepreneur who has built a multi-million-dollar business from solar power.

This young entrepreneur, Patrick Ngowi is a Tanzanian business celebrity, environmentalist, and philanthropist who commenced his journey as an entrepreneur at the tender age of 15 with the bit of money he borrowed from his mother.

At 18, he got engaged in trading cell phones as he discovered that cell phones in Asia were cheaper to buy than in Tanzania. So the young entrepreneur bought affordable models from Chinese manufacturers and sold them to Tanzania’s gadget enthusiasts at much higher prices. This first start-up gave Ngowi a $150,000 profit.

Patrick Ngowi was not concerned about how small he was in age, but he carried on with his passion. No wonder he once said, “Your age doesn’t define your maturity and your wealth doesn’t define your success. So don’t focus on ‘net worth’ but on ‘self-worth’.

While selling low-cost cell phones and travelling back and forth from China to Tanzania, he was learning about solar panels and renewable energy. Ngowi realised this was a new business opportunity knocking on his door, so he decided to answer.

At 22, Patrick Ngowi is the founder of Helvetic Solar Contractors and Light for Life Foundation. This non-profit social enterprise focuses on providing free solar and small wind power systems for youth and women in rural and on helping his country manage the energy crisis. This company has become the fastest-growing network of renewable energy companies in East Africa, making $8 million in revenues.

Helvetic Group is known to partner with The Climate Reality Project to make renewable energy solutions more affordable and accessible for as many Tanzanians as possible. In addition, Ngowi’s non-profit social initiative, Light For Life Foundation, is known to provide free solar power to women living in the villages of Tanzania, providing better access to clean renewable energy and the company has installed 6,000 rooftop solar systems. He founded similar companies in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.

In 2013, Helvetic Solar was awarded the Fastest Growing and Number One in Tanzania’s Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies Survey.

Looking at his achievements, recognition and awards, Ngowi became the United Nations SDG Pioneer for 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019, in New York, USA.

In 2016, he won the 100 Most Influential Young Africans (Africa Youth Awards), in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He bagged the award for East Africa Young Business Leader of the Year Award in 2014 (AABLA) in Nairobi, Kenya.

In 2014, he was among the top 100 Young Economic Leaders 2014 – Choiseul Institute, Paris, France and from 2013-2014, he was also among the top 100 Most Influential Africans in Lagos, Nigeria.

Ngowi was also included in the Forbes list of under 30 Africa’s Best Young Entrepreneurs and Forbes list of Young African Millionaires to Watch in 2013.

He was again listed in the 2014 list of Africa’s Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs through Helvetic Group.

Forbes and CNBC also named him East Africa’s Young Business Leader of the Year in 2014.
Ngowi has had multiple speaking roles at international events and in 2015 was elected as Chairman of the United Nations Global Compact in Tanzania.

A year later, it was announced by the United Nations Secretary-General that Ngowi was one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) Global 10 Pioneers, being a pioneer in providing access to clean energy, SDG 7.

Patrick Ngowi has always believed that if opportunity knocks, answer. He also quoted in his motivational speeches, “It was a business on the side, nothing serious, but I loved the fact that I was making money and becoming a bit independent. The very foundation of the little success I’ve achieved was formed during those years. I learned about profit and loss, about margins, about marketing and hiring the right people – I learned so many things at that stage”.

Ngowi is also the chairman of the United Nations Global Compact in Tanzania and a board member and advisor to several local companies in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.

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