Meet friends turned entrepreneurs Benedict Owanga and Chinelo Adi. They are the founders of Owanga Solar, which seeks to combat the energy crisis and the dire need for power in Africa. The inadequate power generation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other parts of Africa led the duo to create a climate tech company that rents out portable solar-powered batteries to consumers.
The project is being undertaken in DR Congo, the second largest country in Africa with an estimated 112 million people. Only about 19 percent of that figure has access to electricity. As a result, many citizens resort to the use of unsafe methods of generating power, including the use of kerosene and candles. Others are also confronted with high alternative options like generators which reportedly cost $30 per day to operate.
“Owanga is an on demand electricity service. When you look at Africa, the biggest issue that we currently face is the lack of electricity, and this leads to a lot of people using inefficient ways to maintain that, such as kerosene generators and candles,” the founders told DivInc in an interview.
“So our solution allows customers to rent out our portable battery packs for $2 a day and it has the capacity to power up a one bedroom house or an entire shop in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” they added.
According to Emory Law News Center, Owanga solar-powered batteries can power an entire home or shop for about two dollars per day with a seven-day rental minimum or the units have the batteries installed permanently.
The idea underpinning Owanga Solar is not only to ensure that everyone has access to clean energy, but to be the leading renewable energy provider in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a commitment to sustainability, social responsibility, and customer satisfaction.
The idea for the project started through the personal experience of Owanga while doing his internship. According to him, he lost power for two hours and it took him about two weeks just to fully understand what he was doing at his job.
“This really got me thinking,” he said. “I lost power for two hours and it took me two weeks just to do something that’s really basic. What about people that don’t have power for months or for years, where are they in life? This led me down the rabbit hole of a lot of research on renewable energy and how different communities work when they don’t have power.”
He then reached out to Adi with the idea and she was interested in that as well, resulting in the birth of Owanga Solar. The duo, working with Emory Hatchery, submitted a pitch deck to DivInc for the Accelerator Program, and it got accepted.
The DivInc Accelerator Program is a 12-week program that “focuses on diverse founders at the forefront of clean energy with focus on climate change solutions, clean energy production, energy storage and transmission, energy efficiency, carbon economy, sustainable/smart cities, and deployment of clean technologies for historically marginalized communities,” its website says. Participants receive various benefits, valued at over $100,000.