How a Little boy from Malawi Brought Electricity to His Village

Wiliam kamkwamba: the Malawian boy who built a windmill to power his family’s home at age 14. Photocredit:

Malawi is one of the landlocked countries in south-east Africa, firmly resting on the Great Rift valley region along the western coast of Lake Nyasa. In 2002, a boy, by the name William Kamkwamba set out with a dream to provide electricity to his village.

Many remote Malawian villages do not have access to electricity. But William Kamkwamba dared to make a difference by generating electricity from wind. He had read from a book from the school library, how windmills generate electricity efficiently.

He imagined that someone built the windmills in the book. And if only he could focus, experiment and work really hard without giving up, he could do the same. By reading this book, Kamkamba began experimenting with locally sourced materials in his village to build a windmill. A home-grown solution to a nagging energy need in Malawi.

He searched the village for motor parts, car batteries, rubber pipes, fan, screws and more. In a region where technological breakthroughs are considered a rare achievement reserved for a special breed not to be found in a remote Malawian village school, the 14 year old boy’s dream seemed like a joke.

In a CNN report, written by Faith Karimi, it captured the struggle of this Malawian boy daring to actualize his good dream.  ‘Everyone laughed at me when I told them I was building a windmill. They thought I was crazy,” he said. “Then I started telling them I was just playing with the parts. That sounded more normal.’

Within 3 months, his windmill was completed and a sigh of relief swept Kamkwamba. With a bulb attached to the windmill, he confirmed it worked when the bulb lighted. The support stand for the windmill was hacked from the trunk of a gum tree. In succeeding years, Kamkwamba would go on to build at least 5 windmills including for a school.

He soon became the pride of his village and his country. The subject of global news discussion and journalistic research. Kamkwamba has traveled around the world sharing his electricity venture in a small village, north of Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe. Through goodwill sponsors, in 2010, he joined the African Leadership Academy in south Africa.

He has been tipped as a shining example of that new generation of young Africans daring to make difference even in the harshest of environment. Kamkwamba was sent out of school when he could not pay his school fees. But he perservered turning to good books for motivation.

He succeeded before the outcome was known. By building screw driver from nails melted and flattened in fire and attaching the nails to corn-combs, it showed how much he dared to realize his dream. Africa has children coming of age and this story would inspire.





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