Globally, there has been a clamor by governments and industries to turn to clean energy; a move propelled by factors such as its relative affordability and environmental safety. The need for clean energy is even more pronounced in much of Africa where energy from gas and coal are often priced beyond the means of many households.
For Nigeria in particular, over 90 million people do not have access to electricity, and for those who have it, the supply is irregular. This is where Olugbenga Olubanjo comes in with his clean energy startup Reedi.
While studying for a master’s degree in applied science at the University of Toronto, Olubanjo increasingly became concerned about the power situation in Nigeria. He heard family and friends express their frustrations over the country’s irregular power supply anything he calls home.
Two years after his master’s degree, Olubanjo decided to return to Nigeria to bring clean energy to energy-starved communities. This led him to found Reeddi, which provides portable energy via compact capsules that are charged at solar-powered stations located in communities, according to Utoronto.
Olubanjo says he aims to ease households’ dependence on disease generators, which has become a basic need in many Nigerian homes to keep the lights on as the national grid becomes unreliable.
Before designing his compact capsules, Olubanjo conceptualized using umbrellas fitted with solar panels to help energy-starved communities to charge their phones and other smart devices. The device, called Veco, even placed second in the U of T chapter of the Hult Prize for social entrepreneurship.
“That gave me a lot of confidence as I realized that the North American business space wasn’t as different from the Nigerian business space as I thought,” Olubanjo says, according to Utoronto.
In 2018, Olubanjo and his team approach the Entrepreneurship Hatchery at the University of Toronto to pitch the idea of making compact capsules.
“We got a lot of feedback from the judges and directors at the Hatchery, and the questions they asked changed the way I saw our business model,” he says. “We started doing more research and eventually developed the model for the capsules. So the idea really kicked off in the Hatchery.”
After a successful pilot of the project in Nigeria with five prototypes, Reedi was due for a full rollout. According to Olubanjo, the impact of Reedi has gone beyond Nigeria, attracting special interest from organizations and communities in countries like South Africa, Indonesia, India and the United States.
“Anywhere where there’s an energy or electricity issue is where we come into play. We want to be in as many countries as possible,” Olubanjo says.
In 2021, Olubanjo’s innovation was named Time Best Invention of 2021, according to Business Insider. What is more, he was awarded the University of Toronto John Wesley J. Hall Award for Excellence in Entrepreneurship.
Also, he was recently featured as one of the five startup entrepreneurs from Africa on the 2022 Bloomberg New Economy Catalyst list.