A crash course in changing the world.
Felix Mukobeko is Zambian, 29, single, and a recent participant at our micro-solar production set-up workshop in Mumbwa (a small town 150 km west of the Zambian capital of Lusaka).
His parents and older brothers have passed away, leaving Felix as head of a ten-person household. Felix is a self-employed carpenter and joiner, and also dabbles in brick-laying and painting.
Together with some friends he runs a carpentry business in town, and produces "anything" in wood for his customers - including double beds. The question was begging.... "How do you distribute a double bed to your customers who live many kilometres away in rural villages?" The answer is simple: on a wheelbarrow.
Felix's carpentry workshop, now in its third year, is typical of millions of small businesses in Africa: with no access to capital, limited tools and facilities, and bucket loads of gumption - somehow the business gets done.
During my six-month assignment in Zambia, one of the key challenges put to me has been to "find a distribution strategy for micro-solar products in rural Zambia". When I think of Felix distributing his double beds by wheelbarrow - it occurs to me that Felix is probably far better placed than I am to answer this crucial question for SolarAid.
Felix has been trained to assemble solar panels and simple solar lanterns (which are made from locally available materials such as wood and plastic sewerage pipe). Now, with access to imported components - such as 1.8 watt solar panels, LEDs, diodes and resistors - Felix and his colleagues are eager to expand their business into microsolar, producing solar panels and solar lanterns for the rural market which is currently dependent on candles and kerosene for lighting. Felix is optimistic about market potential for microsolar:
"Many people like the wooden lamp that we made because it's strong and hard, and it has bright light".