A local television in Kenya (K24) highlighted the story of an elderly man who has been generating his own power for use in his home, deep in a village. He revealed that the idea of generating electricity occurred to him at an early age when he realized that he could use a bicycle dynamo and an improvised turbine to generate hydro power just like it happens in generation of the commercial hydro power that is fed to the national greed. The amazing finding is that the old guy never attained any quality education because he dropped out of school at the elementary level due to lack of school fees. Using his 100% local innovation, he has been able to light his home and irrigate crops for many years!
When you look at what the old man has been able to achieve and utilize it over decades, you begin to imagine what the situation would be at present had his innovation been supported and converted into a business model? Perhaps the whole village could have enjoyed the benefits of power for all these years; maybe the man would have grown to become one of the richest and most influential people in Kenya; thousands of employment opportunities would have emerged; the innovation would have been duplicated across the country-meaning power in more Kenyan villages. But because no one ever saw the potential of the innovation to grow to a mega business, it remained what it is today-just an innovation. And even though the old man can smile at the ability to enjoy the power, the innovation has certainly not changed his life because he still struggles with the daily challenges of poverty in Africa. This is a case of innovations in Africa that never convert to businesses despite the potential and it is from such scenarios that vital lessons should be drawn as the continent awakens to real economic growth.
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