As a student, Ifeanyi Orajaka wanted to help communities in rural Nigeria obtain electricity. Having begun with an award-winning pilot project, which brought a six kW microgrid to one village, he is now looking at providing millions of his countrymen with off-grid renewable energy.
It has been a remarkable journey for a man fired by a desire to help lift people out of poverty through access to safe and reliable energy. In 2008, as a student intern with an international oil company, Orajaka visited Nigerian oil facilities. He saw that rural communities near the facilities lacked electricity.
“This spurred me and some of my friends and course mates to brainstorm how to apply our basic engineering and innovative skills towards making an impact in the lives of low income rural dwellers. We wanted to design a platform that would provide them with access to electricity to cater for their basic energy needs,” he said.
Their idea formed the basis of a winning entry for the 2009 Institute of Electrical Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Presidents’ Change the World Project Competition, which seeks to identify students that proffer solutions to real world problems. Thanks to the award, they were able to start a pilot project with funding from both the IEEE and a programme run by the UNDP and Nigeria’s Bank of Industry. The group formed a social enterprise, Green Village Electricity Enterprises, which in 2012 became Green Village Electricity (GVE) Projects Limited, a fully incorporated, private for-profit company.
Orajaka plans to continue the company’s growth through improved processes and procedures, attaining world-class standards as it aspires to bring off-grid electricity to millions of people. On a personal note, he intends to embark on an MBA programme specialising in finance.
He advises other entrepreneurs to remain focused on creating value and never to be deterred by the challenges they may encounter, as these are the stepping stones to success.
He remains driven by the desire he had as a student to bring electricity to communities who have never had it before.
“Seeing smiles and warm gestures of appreciation from children in the communities we have impacted thus far continues to motivate me,” Orajaka says.