By Samuel Kamndaya
The Citizen Business Editor
Dar es Salaam. The winner of the second episode of Tanzania’s Top 100 Mid-sized Companies Survey, Mr Patrick Ngowi of Helvetic Solar Contractors, is one of the brainiest young African entrepreneurs, according to Forbes magazine.
The 28-year-old features in the latest list of the American bi-weekly business magazine that is renowned for its original articles on finance, industry, investing and marketing.
According to Forbes, Mr Ngowi is one of 30 Africans under the age of 30 who are changing the face of Africa.
He was picked by a panel of 12 judges from across Africa who took part in identifying the entrepreneurs and innovators who are making the most dramatic impact across the continent.
A statement in the magazine puts it this way: “These 30 young African entrepreneurs, disruptors and innovators featured on this list are impatient to change Africa. Together, they represent the entrepreneurial, innovative and intellectual best of their generation. They’re solving problems like healthcare and electricity shortages, proffering innovative solutions to waste management, building virtual and physical communities and creating lots of jobs.”
Mr Ngowi, the CEO of Helvetic Solar Contractors, ventured into business nine years ago after receiving a Sh2.3million loan from his mother, Emmy. He earned about $3 million (about Sh4.8billion) last year. With Sh2.3 million, Patrick ventured into vending Chinese mobile phones but, having discovered that only 14 per cent of Tanzanians have electricity, he decided that the solar energy business would be more profitable. A Swiss contact, Philippe Glauser, gave him extra funding. The firm, now six years into business, is a pioneer in the supply, installation and maintenance of solar systems throughout the Northern Circuit of Tanzania. In his first year of business, the 28-year-old had a turnover of Sh30 million, rising to Sh4.6 billion last year—making it the fastest growing medium-sized firm in the country, according to a leading consulting and auditing firm, KPMG.
Ngowi’s father Ephra and his mother are secondary school teachers. He credits the exposure he got from his family’s time living in Botswana and South Africa for setting him on the path to success.
On being recognised by Forbes, he says: “I’m honoured to be on the list of under 30 Best Entrepreneurs in Africa. This goes to show that Tanzania’s economy is growing and that its policies support small and medium business start-ups...It is my hope that this will inspire more of my fellow entrepreneurs to follow their dream and maintain peace and harmony through engaging in their work with absolute commitment.”
The Forbes list of 30 under 30 best African entrepreneurs also includes eight Kenyans, seven South Africans, seven Nigerians, two Ghanaians and one each from Uganda, Malawi, Cameroon,
Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Kenyans are: Lorna Rutto (28), a Green Tech Entrepreneur and founder of EcoPost; 26-year-old Evans Wadongo, the chairman of SDFA Kenya; 26-year-old Eric Muthomi, the founder of Stawi Foods & Fruits and the two founders of Serene Valley Properties Kimiti Wanjaria and Ian Kahara, who are both in their late 20s.
The other Kenyans are 26-year-old Cosmas Ochieng, the founder of Ecofuels Kenya, 20-year-old Joel Mwale, the founder of Skydrop Enterprises, and 25-year-old Mark Kaigwa, a partner in the Afrinnovator.
The brainy young entrepreneurs from South Africa include 28-year-old Jonathan Liebmann, a real estate developer and chief executive officer for Propertuity; 28-year-old Justin Stanford, the founder and chief executive officer for 4Di Group and 28-year-old Rapelang Rabana, founder of Yeigo Communications.