Africa Best Young Entrepreneurs,Patrick Ngowi-VENTURES AFRICA

This is one Young Tanzanian man taking Africa by Storm! An intreview he did with Ventures Africa Magazine a Pan-African business magazine and news service, which champions African capitalism by celebrating African success, free enterprise, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the rewards of hard work.
Since his appearance on Forbes Early February this year, this young man has been the talk of the town. 

Gone are the days that we say ‘no hurry in Africa’ or ‘hakuna matata’. International business is done with global checklist, it doesn’t matter if the company is European, American or African; performance is expected.-Patrick Ngowi

V: So some history on your ascension in the business world highlights you were nine when your mom gave you a loan. What was life like back then
PN: My siblings and I come from a very humble background; both my father and mother are teachers by profession. Education was the number one priority in our home. I was born in Tanzania but attended primary in Botswana and South Africa where my father worked before coming back to Tanzania for my secondary school education. When I was 15 years, cell phones had just started to gain popularity in Tanzania, scratch recharge cards were scarce so I mobilised fuel station pump attendants in my hometown of Arusha to sell calling scratch cards – vouchers. I made relatively good profits at the time. By the time I was 18 years; I finished my secondary education and had a gap year before going to university. It was during that time that I took a loan from my mother and a free return ticket to Hongkong was offered to me by a close family friend and I started trading in mobile phones, doing regular trips to and fro. I did the business for 1 year and it was during that time, I spotted the long term opportunity in solar and decided to venture into it. Initially, due to the technical background required in the trade, I had to study about renewable energy, focussing on solar power then setup shop with our first office in Arusha and embarked on domestic and small scale installations. I did all the installations myself at the time.V: Having evolved into the businessman you are in turn the positive repercussion is a role model of course. How were you raised and from then to now, what is the bond like between yourself and your mother? 
PN: My siblings and I grew up with teachers for parents. They were not just normal teachers, but dedicated teachers who loved their profession. I’m happy to say that my siblings and I attained valedictorian positions in our respective classes throughout. We would have schooling at school and schooling done at home – tuition, of which my mother handled that part. Focus on education remained key when growing up for all of us. I look back at all that I was taught throughout that various stages on my life and I am eternally grateful as it made me who I am today. Knowledge is invaluable and discipline towards work cannot be substituted. I was taught on the importance of discipline and hard work. There was no reward without effort.My mother and I are very close, like any mother and son naturally are. Her trust in my work has never wavered and in turn moulded me at the time when I needed it the most, boosting my confidence. My father has always been there to advise me along every step of the way. I am blessed that I have a very supportive and loving family. Taking the path to do business wasn’t an easy swallow for academicians but my parents and siblings were there to offer support and even manage my office, throughout each stage. 
V: We bet you were not expecting this question. How much did your mother loan you? 
PN: My mother gave me the equivalent of $1,800. Being a teacher, Mum couldn’t afford more at the time.V: How many phones did you sell when doing the phone business? 
PN: When doing the cellphone business, my target market was the mass market in the rural areas. They could only afford to spend $20 – $25 at the time. I sold well over 5,000 units. 
V: Every person has at least one positive, strong characteristic. Which one or few were accentuated as just a kid running a business? 
PN: Discipline, trustworthy, industrious, creative, resourceful, punctual and loyal.Gone are the days that we say ‘no hurry in Africa’ or ‘hakuna matata’. International business is done with global checklist, it doesn’t matter if the company is European, American or African; performance is expected. 
V: You’ve built a successful company at a very young age. Looking back what do you appreciate most? 
PN: I appreciate and value every lesson I learnt along the way. Truth, honesty, integrity and zeal towards work. I believe that our current success is a product of all the many challenges that we have overcome, together with the awards we have received with great humility. I remain humbled by all and hope we get offer more in line with our company’s vision and mission for many more years to come. 
V: As a result of your efforts with Helvetic Solar Contractors and Helvetic Group, what is the actual impact in Tanzania and how much is there still to do? 
PN: Helvetic Solar Contractors has installed over 2,000 small and medium scale solar power and solar water heating systems in Tanzania government institutions, United Nations works, homes, school, clinics, dispensaries, hospitals, off grid lodges and hotels in Tanzania. We have also been awarded contracts in neighbouring countries like Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.With Helvetic Group we have supplied over 1MW of solar panels for direct use, to retailers, for projects in the region as wholesalers. We built a strong online platform so we are able to interact with regionally with great ease and 24 hour support system.Helvetic Solar Contractors has a lot more that it can do. We have rolled out 26 agents in Tanzania that are already selling our small package product range. We are looking at increasing that portfolio so that we have more agents in the region so as that we continue our direct link with rural communities that need our products the most. I am happy to say that our agents cover every region of Tanzania and now also taken on 3 agents in Uganda. We have been able to penetrate and build a strong network with electricians and hardware stores throughout.We welcome investors, strategic partners and project promoters to further our company’s vision and mission towards rural electrification in Tanzania and rest of East Africa. 
V: Traditionally, alternative energy systems are expensive. How does Helvetic Solar solve this problem, especially for Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa?
PN: I am happy to say that the Government of Tanzania is an example for other countries in Africa to follow. Solar and Wind products have NO VAT or import charges. This incentive has enabled us to lower the cost for the end user.We are members of associations and NGO’s that have tailored outreach programmes towards rural electrification.We work with donors and nongovernmental organisations closely in solar power projects throughout the region.We also offer direct credit facilities for solar power installations for rural communities that have good track record.At Helvetic, we strive to lower our cost for products and installations by offering FREE installation package throughout Tanzania as connection charges for solar in Tanzania had been far too high before Helvetic Solar Contractors came into the scene. 
V: Helvetic sources their technology from the US and Europe. Last year I visited China and there is some pretty cool things happening there. Do you foresee any future surge in competition from the east? 
PN: Indeed. Our company’s vision remains geared towards offering quality solar products at an affordable cost. China has already overtaken US and Europe in solar panel production.The company is always looking for quality, affordable but reputable suppliers. It is true that at the moment US and European products remain expensive and they really haven’t focussed enough on the potential market in Africa, both small scale and large scale.We are in talks with leading manufacturers in US and Europe so as to promote their products more in the region. It is my hope that this will yield results. Meanwhile, China remains a force to be reckoned with. 
V: What is the biggest trade-off for Africa in terms of alternative energy at the moment? 
PN: Africa is currently experiencing energy deficiencies both for domestic and industrial use. In order to achieve its development aspirations, Africa must increase its energy supply to catch up to, and keep up with, growing energy requirements, while avoiding adverse environmental consequences. Simultaneously, the international community has reached consensus that power generation based on fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) is the major contributor to climate change and aims, therefore, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The main source of energy in Tanzania is still biomass (fuel-wood and charcoal), which accounts for about 85.5 percent of total energy consumption. Only about 14 percent of the population has access to electricity, but power consumption is growing at the rate of 11 – 13 percent per annum. Where electricity is available, the quality of supply is poor and blackouts and other service interruptions are common. The relatively high cost for businesses associated with maintaining a reliable supply of electricity via use of private generators during blackouts puts pressure on Tanzanian firms to increase product prices to recoup these costs, thereby becoming less competitive against similar products from firms in other countries. 
V: Do you think setting up solar research farms i.e. funded by manufacturers of wind or solar technologies could be cost effective for Africa, as an initial alternative of course?
PN: Indeed. Feasibility studies have been done to prove that it is quite cost effective and the case in point. It remains the interest of manufacturers to work with companies such as Helvetic to grasp the opportunities that lie ahead with such ventures. 
V: Any chance of you looking for the next nine year old “Patrick Ngowi” via a funded programme? 
PN: A lot has transpired over the last nine years and I believe that a lot more is yet to come in the next nine years. I am a entrepreneur and passionate environmentalist. ‘Going Green’ is my primary goal and without a doubt I will engage in any sound programmes to further my interests. 
V: Lastly, Patrick Ngowi’s ideal getaway? 
PN: I am proudly Tanzanian and happy to say that our country is truly blessed with great scenery and unique locations ranging from Serengeti plains, Ngorongoro crater, Kilimanjaro mountain, Zanzibar Island and many more. For me, these are my ideal gateways. It will take me awhile to complete a full circle around this and it surely does it for me at the moment.