Entrepreneurial Hero: Patrick Ngowi

Throughout his entire life, Patrick Ngowi was always searching for the next bright idea. It began at age 15, after noticing that people in his community had to travel long distances to “top-up” or recharge their mobile phones in his hometown of Arusha, Tanzania. He started purchasing vouchers from the area’s largest dealers so he could then sell them independently. Though he didn’t continue the business after high school, Ngowi credits the endeavor with teaching him the foundations of entrepreneurship – lessons that he continues to utilize today.

Ngowi’s next venture came during a post-high school trip to Asia at a time when mobile phone technology was in its earliest stages. After noticing the inexpensive phones

available on the Asian market, he decided to capitalize on the opportunity to bring these resources back home to Africa,a place where mobile technology was limited to the general population. Taking out a loan from his mother, he made frequent trips back to Asia to purchase phones that he would then sell to fellow Tanzanians at reasonable prices.

But Ngowi’s vision didn’t stop there. During his trips to Asia, he became fascinated with renewable energy and solar panels, a particularly interesting subject given the power challenges in his native Tanzania. Eager to learn more, Ngowi enrolled at Dezhou University in China where he continued to study renewable energy and brainstorm ways it could be utilized to help people back home.

With a vision in mind, Ngowi began an exporting business, taking orders from Tanzanian construction companies and shipping them cheap materials from China. The capital earned from this endeavor became the creation vessel for Helvetic Solar, Ngowi’s solar energy company that he began after college. Sales for the business started slowly, as many Tanzanians were unfamiliar with alternative energy.  However, as word spread and Ngowi persistently marketed his concept, sales started to climb. Within a matter of years, Helvetic Solar went from servicing smaller clients in Tanzania to providing solar panels for global corporations and government entities across East Africa. The success of the company has earned Ngowi an array of accolades, all before the age of 30, including a nomination for Africa’s prestigious Young Person of the Year award.

Ngowi’s passion for the East African community led him to establish Light for Life, a social enterprise devoted to supporting East African women through access to clean solar power and initiatives that spark sustainable economic and business opportunities. Just over a year old, the L4L foundation has already been credited with helping 1,000 rural Tanzanian women. Talk about unleashing potential.

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