Freetown youth wind-powered generator wins development innovation award

Oct 10, 2016

Photo: The idea of the 17-year-old could help fix sierra Leone’s staggering electricity challenges if it is improved on ©UNDP Sierra Leone

When 17 year-old Samuel Elba and his colleagues got fed-up with the rampant electricity shortage in the Dwazark community, a hill top slum in the central of Freetown, they resorted to use local scrap to invent a wind- powered generator that is cheaper, healthier and environmentally friendly.

The lack of affordable energy supply has been a perennial problem confronting Sierra Leone. According to the Department for International Development (DfID) 2015 study on Energy only 10% of Sierra Leone’s 6.4 million population have access to electricity. This situation is even more dire in remote areas were a significant quota of the population lives.

Access in most part of city still remains a pipe dream. Communities that have access still suffer from intermittent power cuts. Though the capital Freetown enjoys a substantial access to electricity from the national grid, public electricity services are limited to some selected areas which further exacerbates the poverty situation.

“We are confident that our prototype would help tackle the persistent energy challenges threatening our country’s progress,” Elba told journalists at Fourah Bay College in Freetown soon after he was announced the 2016 Social Good Summit (SGS) Youth Innovation Award winner, an annual technology incubator for youth with incredible ideas organized by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The trio: Samuel Elba, Vandy Amos Saati and Mustapha Lulleh competed with six young people whose ideas were scrutinized by a panel of Judges drawn from the academia, civil society and government. 

Fatamat Bintu Barrie who developed a purification water storage tank using local materials for her community took the female star-price; whilst Mohamed Ibrahim Bangura’s web education platform that connects students to teachers took the runners up price.

Kelvin Doe who featured in the 2013 New African edition of 100 most influential African Science and Academia said that the trio’s idea would be a cheap solution to Sierra Leone’s power challenge.

“It was fascinating to see youth come up with solutions to problem that we face as a nation. What makes this motivating is that they are not some big engineer or lecturers at some university,” said Kelvin Doe.

UNDP as a thought leader will look into the possibilities of engaging the winner in bringing the idea to full realization.

UNDP Resident Representative Sunil Saigal noted that the aim of the SGS is for young people to consider the challenges to development and to think about of very practical ways in which they can help address those challenges.

“We focused the 2016 SGS particularly on young people because issues concerning youth are among the most central development challenges in Africa and the world over,” said UNDP Resident Representative Sunil Saigal.

Minister of Youth Bai Mahmoud Bangura, expressed optimism that today’s youth would take advantage of the many opportunities offered by Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

“As young people, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are our priority. They are our promise to a secured future,” he told his audience. 

UNDP in partnership with Africell, Coca Cola and the Blue Crest College brought together the government, private sector, academic institutions, youth innovators, social entrepreneurs, tech-hubs, students, pupils and citizens, to discuss the potential of technology to create enduring solutions to Sierra Leone’s greatest development problems.

Mr. Bangura presented the prices to the best minds at an awards ceremony held at National Youth Commission Conference room on October 10 2016 in Freetown. The awards come after the winners emerged victorious at the summit held on September 29 2016.