A young entrepreneur from Zimbabwe has created a novel solution to the country’s energy crisis and environmental problems.
Aluwaine Tanaka Manyonga, a University of Zimbabwe electrical engineering graduate, has invented the Chigubhu Lantern, a solar-powered light source made from recycled plastic bottles and electronic waste.
Manyonga’s company, Zar Tech, was selected as a wild card for the Value Creation Challenge (VCC), a program sponsored by Old Mutual that supports innovative and sustainable businesses in Zimbabwe.
Zar Tech impressed the judges with its unique and resourceful approach to providing clean and affordable lighting for Zimbabwean homes.
The Chigubhu Lantern uses discarded plastic bottles as the casing LED chips and lithium-ion batteries as the components. The lanterns can be charged at a centralized solar station that can accommodate multiple units at once. This reduces the dependency on unreliable and costly grid power and also helps to reduce environmental pollution.
Manyonga said he was inspired by his own experience of living in rural areas where access to electricity was scarce. He wanted to create a low-cost solution that used solar energy to deliver a reliable light source.
He also wanted to give back to his community by teaching school children how to make their own lanterns using locally available materials.
Zar Tech has already trained two schools in Chihota, Manyonga’s hometown, where students learned how to assemble and use the Chigubhu Lanterns. Manyonga said he hopes to expand his project to other schools and communities across the country and beyond.
The Chigubhu Lantern not only benefits individual households but also supports existing initiatives to introduce solar lighting kits across Africa. By using centralized charging points, the lanterns can be recharged at schools or other designated locations within the solar lighting system.
This minimizes costs and maintenance efforts while also creating social hubs where people can interact and share information.
Manyonga’s venture addresses pressing environmental and social challenges by repurposing discarded materials and offering clean, affordable lighting solutions.
With the guidance and support received through the Value Creation Challenge, Manyonga stands to gain valuable insights and expertise to develop his business further, ensuring its long-term viability and positive impact on local communities.
Lillian Mbayiwa, Old Mutual Head of Group Marketing, Public Affairs and Sustainability, said Zar Tech was chosen as the wild card for this year’s challenge because their project was young, resourceful and a simple solution to an average Zimbabwean’s everyday problem.
She said the Chigubhu Lantern perfectly aligns with Old Mutual’s commitment to responsible business practices and sustainability.
Samuel Matsekete, Old Mutual Zimbabwe Group chief executive, praised Manyonga as a visionary who is shaping a brighter and more eco-conscious future for Zimbabwe and beyond.
He said that by transforming discarded materials into a source of hope and brilliance, Zar Tech is demonstrating the power of innovation and social impact.
Zar Tech managed to secure a spot in the Value Creation Challenge top 10 finalists, who will compete for the grand prize of US$ 50,000 in seed funding and mentorship from Old Mutual and other partners. The winner will be announced at the VCC Gala Dinner on November 30.