Kenyan lamp likened to CNN and Internet - Daily Nation

Kenyan lamp likened to CNN and Internet

Thursday March 31 2011

A Kenyan entrepreneur, Evans Wadongo, has made history again after he is named one of three winners of the inaugural Gorbachev awards March 30, 2011. FILE

A Kenyan entrepreneur, Evans Wadongo, has made history again after he is named one of three winners of the inaugural Gorbachev awards March 30, 2011. FILE 

By DAVE OPIYO [email protected]

He was last year feted for inventing the first ever-solar lantern. He has now added another feather to his cap.

The sky appears to be the limit for young Evans Wadongo, a Kenyan entrepreneur who has once again made history after he was named one of three winners of the inaugural Gorbachev awards for “people who have changed the world” at a star-studded event in London on Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Wadongo, the CNN 2010 Hero, joined the founder of CNN Ted Turner and Timothy Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web in receiving the award at the gala event.

The three were personally selected by Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, and honoured during the event to celebrate his 80th birthday at the Royal Albert Hall.

“These three people have each, in their own way, changed the world for their fellow men and women in ways which affect all our lives,” Gorbachev said in a news release.

Had not expected award

An elated Mr Wadongo told the Nation in a telephone interview from London that he did not expect the award.

He is expected to return to the country on Thursday before setting off again tomorrow for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend an African Union Youth Summit.

He was hesitant to disclose any monetary rewards, only saying he has a certificate to show for his recognition.

“Being nominated was just enough for me. When I was invited to attend the inaugural award, it did not dawn on me that I would win it,” he said.

“It was therefore a shock when my name was read out. I did not expect it at all,” he added. Mr Wadongo invented the first solar-powered lantern back in 2004.

The lamp has become a clean, healthy alternative to wood fires as a source of light and has transformed the lives of thousands of Africans.

His desire to provide sustainable energy to communities was borne while studying electrical engineering at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

The awards have been organised into three categories reflecting reforms Gorbachev undertook as the Soviet leader, CNN reported.

Berners-Lee was given the award for perestroika, or reform, for inventing the World Wide Web in 1989, changing the way the world shares information.

The award for glasnost, or openness, was given to Turner, who helped transform the world’s media with his 24-hour global news operation.

Mr Wadongo, 25, won the award for contributions to modern science and technology, or uskoreniye.

“Each and every one possesses the ability to make a difference and the Gorbachev Awards have been established to those who achieve this and to provide inspiration to all of us to try,” said the former Russian president and Nobel Peace laureate.

Yesterday, Mr Wadongo said he was humbled by the recognition given to him by the former Soviet Union President.

“Being bestowed this award is wonderful especially due to the fact that it is being given to a youth from a developing country,” he said.

Mr Wadongo said he would not shy away from engaging in projects that assist the community.

The last born in a family of five, Evans attended Malava Primary where the memory of the “koroboi” smoke and the constant fights with siblings over a single kerosene lamp are still fresh in his mind.

Despite all these, he did well in KCPE exams and joined Kakamega High and later JKUAT where he graduated last year.

“My background instilled discipline and hard work ethic in me. Had I been brought up where electricity and other comforts were, I would not be where I am today,” he says.

He designed the solar lamp, which he calls Mwanga Bora (Swahili for good light) in 2004, as a way to address poor education, climate change, health and poverty in rural areas in Kenya.

Mr Wadongo named the entire project Use Solar, save Lives programme, as he aimed to use solar technology as a way to save lives in poor communities.

He was selected as a CNN Top Ten Hero for 2010, among over 10,000 nominations worldwide.

He was honoured at an All Star Tribute show in Hollywood by Oscar winning actress, Halle Berry.