By Basil Malaki
Prosper Magali: Building Evidence Based Solutions from Sensing Journeys
Along with being the co-founder of Ensol Tanzania, which is one of the successful renewable energy companies in Tanzania, Prosper Magali spends most of his time-sharing his expert experience and key learnings on big stages around the world. Back at home in Tanzania, he is a committed youth mentor. He plays an active role in clean and renewable energy initiatives that help influence change, which in turn directs the future.
More than a learning journey
As a mentor of the 2018 Energy Safari, Prosper Magali shared with us his impression of the 5-day learning and leadership programme for young people, aspiring entrepreneurs and energy professionals. He stated what he would like to see done differently in future Safaris, who the next Safari should involve, where it should be held and some key take away points for the young and ambitious Tanzanian youth looking forward to solve challenges facing the energy sector in Tanzania.
Prosper acknowledges the instrumental role the Energy Safari has played in shaping his approach of solving wicked problems; ‘My first impression of the Safari was this: a journey where youth meet to learn and exchange ideas and find solutions to energy challenges around our communities. Still, it turned out to be more than just a learning journey. I had underestimated the value of networking; team work, capacity building and fun activities’.
Not your common ‘safari’
The 2018 Energy Safari hosted in Arusha was the second of its kind, following the 2015 Energy Safari that primarily focused on addressing energy issues in the city of Dar es Salaam. Being introduced to the Energy Safari concept for the first time, some might think of it as an ‘energetic animal observing expedition in Tanzania’, relating to our common understanding of the concept ‘Safari’. However, animal observing is not what the Energy Safari is about. ’Safari’ is actually the Swahili word for ‘journey’. For energy entrepreneur Prosper Magali, the Energy Safari became an interesting period in his career. He was part of a journey that put focus on tangible cases based on the challenges faced by solar mini-grid companies such as his own. Ensol Tanzania as well as Power Corner, Rafiki Power and other Tanzanian renewable energy companies are currently transitioning from a piloting phase to a bigger market deployment phase, which was one of the focus areas in the Safari. This was helpful for Prosper who said; ‘my expectations of the Safari were met’.
One of the things that make a ‘safari’ experience exciting is the presence of puzzles and obstacles to overcome; the Energy Safari was not an exemption. Asked to suggest what he would like to see improved to make future Safaris more worthwhile, he said, ‘The programme was compacted into five days, which was not sufficient to accommodate the field visits and on-the-table work. However, I was pleased to see how many tangible results can be achieved by youth within five days of team work and dedication; going to the field to understand real problems, coming to the table to design and prototype solutions and going back to the field to test the solutions in the communities faced by the identified challenges. I found this process really interesting’.
Applying the methodology in Ensol and beyond
An exciting journey is always worth sharing with friends and family, especially when it comes with new learnings that you would like to see applied in everyday life.
For a renowned energy expert like Prosper, it is easy to reckon that he has seen and heard it all, but that is not always true. ‘We frequently design solutions to problems without sensing or finding out the real on-the-ground problem. This has been my main take away from the Energy Safari. Part of my job is to find solutions to energy challenges and after the Energy Safari, I am proactively applying Theory U and Lab methodology to solve overarching challenges in the company. It is appreciated as an important problem solving tool in the company even though it takes more time and resources to accomplish my tasks’, he asserted.
Given a chance to select a region for the next Safari, Prosper prefers the Safari to be held in Tanzania’s lake zone circuit arguing that, ‘Energy challenges for fishing communities have not been well addressed, in particular getting affordable and efficient fishing lights. Small-scale fishing is largely being done using unclean kerosene pressure lamps or gensets. So hosting an Energy Safari in Kigoma or Mwanza to seek solutions to fishing energy challenges will be an ideal idea’.
To comprehensively address the fishing energy challenges. He advises that the role of government authorities particularly within the energy circle to respond to policy related issues is imperative. The government needs to draft more energy policies in favour of the youth to promote their involvement in the sector proactively. In addition, learning institutions should be involved to establish partnerships that will make prototype testing and development of solutions more sustainable.
Mentoring Energy Safari participants
Rafiki Power and Power Corner, who had been involved in creating cases for the Energy Safari, showed interest in supporting some of the presented business cases. Currently, groups are discussing with these companies and other actors how they can take their ideas forward. Additionally, seven Energy Safari participants got an opportunity to be mentored by Prosper Magali.
As a youth mentor, Prosper believes the approach and model of working on real issues is the way to solve problems, not only in the energy sector but also in other social spheres of life. In the end, he has solid advice to encourage aspiring young energy entrepreneurs; ‘Tanzania offers big potential for creating solutions to energy challenges with its big population with no access to reliable and affordable clean energy. Youth should identify where their passion lies and if it is in energy related issues, then the sky is the only limit to success. Lastly, to extensively explore energy solutions, youth must stay focused’.