Tanzanian Renewable Startup Leading Through Innovation

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Headquartered in Mwanza, Tanzania, Millennium Engineers was founded in 2016 and uses creative renewable energy solutions to support local communities across Tanzania. Its most recent project, which is still in development, is centered around the fishing industry in Lake Victoria. Among the completed projects, Millennium Engineers has installed renewable energy solutions at primary schools in Tanzania, and it has since expanded outside of Tanzania and completed work in South Africa.

The impact of its current project is greater than just environmental, as its work is benefiting fishing communities, reducing waste, and allowing related businesses to thrive. This project includes the introduction of solar lamps that replace the traditional kerosene lamps used during night fishing. Along with health hazards for fishermen, the cost of kerosene for these lamps can reach up to 40% of the fishermen’s monthly profit. The solar lamps provided by Millennium Engineers, however, could be rented for one dollar a day, saving each boat over 2,000 dollars a year. This is especially important when accounting for the low income level of many of these families and the impact that higher savings can have on both the fishermen and the other small businesses reliant on the fishing industry in the region.

Along with lamps, Millennium Engineers is building solar-powered facilities for the drying of fish. These new facilities will allow fishermen to keep a higher level of their catch, up to 30% of which is currently lost due to rot and contamination. The majority of what remains has low nutritional value and as little as 30% is used for human consumption. The low income levels caused by this waste have contributed to low levels of health and education in the region. These solar drying facilities can dry thousands of kilograms of sardines per day, resulting in higher income in communities and less deforestation by fishermen trying to clear wooded areas for drying.

In conversation with Millennium Engineers’ Senior Project Operations and Sustainability Manager David Mbaga, it is evident that one of the challenges of the renewable industry in Tanzania is transitioning communities away from traditionally used sources of energy such as charcoal and kerosene. Millennium Engineers hold regular workshops and seminars educating communities about both the short and long term health and environmental impacts of these forms of energy. Mbaga also pointed out the need for international private investment in the renewable industry in Tanzania. While government programs such as TAREA (Tanzania Renewable Energy Association) have offered support for startups, the private investment atmosphere must be improved by creating more friendly investment policies to attract international private investment.

However, companies such as Millennium Engineers have reason for optimism. The TSA (Tanzanian Startup Association) has received increased government funding to support clean energy entrepreneurship. A great deal of this will likely be used to support solar and wind projects, which have significant potential in Tanzania. Projects located in central Tanzania with high levels of solar radiation and wind potential can be incorporated directly into the electrical grid. In remote locations where grid infrastructure projects are unrealistic due to cost, off-grid renewables are a viable option. When asked about the future status of Tanzanian clean energy, Mbaga sounded hopeful, responding, “(in the future) solar and wind will not just be a substitute, but will hopefully be the main (energy) supplier in the country.” With startups like Millennium Engineers leading the way, Tanzania could become a hotbed for both renewable growth and foreign investment.

 


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