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UZ graduate in revolutionary lighting concept

Through his brainchild, the Chigubhu Lantern, Manyonga aims to provide a clean, reliable and affordable light source using recycled plastic bottles and discarded lights.

IN a remarkable tale of innovation and making community impact, a University of Zimbabwe electrical engineering graduate, Aluwaine Tanaka Manyonga has revolutionised the concept of lighting in Zimbabwean homes.

Through his brainchild, the Chigubhu Lantern, Manyonga aims to provide a clean, reliable and affordable light source using recycled plastic bottles and discarded lights.

The Value Creation Challenge (VCC) journey of Manyonga and his company, Zar Tech, began when they pitched their revolutionary project at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Innovators Forum, sponsored by Old Mutual in April.

Their unique approach earned them a golden ticket to the VCC top 25.

“We selected Zar Tech as the wild card for this year’s challenge because their project is young, resourceful and a simple solution to an average Zimbabwean’s everyday problem,” Old Mutual head of group marketing, public affairs and sustainability, Lillian Mbayiwa said.

“The Chigubhu Lantern perfectly aligns with Old Mutual's commitment to responsible business practices and sustainability.”

Old Mutual, a key sponsor of the VCC programme, is pivotal in supporting visionary entrepreneurs like Manyonga on their path to success. The inspiration behind the Chigubhu Lantern stemmed from a desire to develop an affordable solution that harnessed solar energy to provide clean and reliable lighting.

"I wanted to develop a low-cost solution that used solar power to deliver a clean, reliable light,” Manyonga said.

By repurposing discarded plastic bottles and utilising electronic waste components, such as light-emitting diode chips and lithium-ion batteries, Zar Tech has not only created an eco-friendly lighting alternative, but has also contributed to reducing environmental pollution.

Powered by solar energy, the Chigubhu Lantern comes with a centralised solar charger which allows multiple lanterns to be charged simultaneously, offering a practical solution to Zimbabwe's persistent power shortages.

Furthermore, Zar Tech is committed to empowering communities by training schoolchildren to make their own lights.

Already, two schools in Chihota, Manyonga's area, have received training, enabling local children to acquire valuable skills and create their own sustainable light sources.

“I started in Chihota because that is where I come from and I wanted to give back to my community,” the entrepreneur said.

The impact of Manyonga's invention extends beyond individual households. Recognising the value of centralised charging points, the Chigubhu Lanterns can be recharged at school or other designated locations within the solar lighting ecosystem.

This approach minimises costs and maintenance efforts, while supporting existing initiatives aimed at introducing solar lighting kits across Africa.

Through the guidance and support received through VCC, Manyonga stands to gain valuable insights and expertise to develop the business further, ensuring its long-term viability and positive impact on local communities.

“Old Mutual's dedication to fostering entrepreneurship and sustainable solutions is exemplified through its support for visionaries like Manyonga, who are shaping a brighter and more eco-conscious future for Zimbabwe and beyond through transforming discarded materials into a source of hope and brilliance,” Old Mutual Zimbabwe group chief executive Samuel Matsekete said.

“With the Chigubhu Lantern, Zimbabwe is witnessing a brighter future, one illuminated by the power of innovation and social impact.”

Zar Tech managed to secure a spot in the VCC top 10 finalists after successfully undergoing the bootcamp and pitching its business concept to a panel of judges.

The top 10 finalists are undergoing an incubation process whereby Old Mutual and partners, the British Council, The British embassy and EFT Corporation are providing resources, mentorship and training to help participants turn their innovative concepts into sustainable businesses.

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