Africa’s talent pool has yet again produced an innovation, Solar Workstations. My curiosity while on social media platform Twitter landed me on Solar Pocha’s innovation of solar workstations. The innovation utilizes one of Africa’s rich resources, solar, to power a workspace of 8-10 people in an open space. The workspace is also creatively designed to be wheelchair accessible making it all-inclusive.
A couple of months ago, I had an interesting chat with the Innovator, Oyinlola Oluwatobi ‘Tobi’. A Graduate with a Degree in Electrical Engineering, he decided to focus on the Internet of things and embedded computing. Similar to many pioneering Innovations in Africa, his latest innovation making headlines is the solar workstations.
The Solar workstation, which is powered by solar panels mounted on a roof of a typical African hut-like structure, has a sitting area and chargeable ports, and Internet Access. Additionally, workstations provide amiable access to sustainable working conditions. Especially with the recent COVID 19 restrictions where working away from home in a safe environment is a breath of fresh air.
Like many Africas Innovation, e.g. LifeBank in Nigeria, SWVL in Egypt, solar workstations came from a need Oluwatubo faced every day as a University student. He narrates a story, whereas a student, he took his phone for 2-3 hours for charging at a shop. He had to pay for the service i.e. charging the phone, and later he ended up losing the phone at the said shop. Majority of University students in Africa, especially in public universities, have been in such a situation.
From experience, the owner of the shop is never liable for the lost item, so one has to find a way to get funds to replace the phone. As such, the idea of a workstation took seed. He worked on his prototype in 2019, a movable solar workstation.
Most African countries average 9 hours of sunshine hours. This has seen growth the tapping into solar power globally with data showing solar generation doubling from 2000 TWh in 2019 to projected 4000 TWh in 2024.
I want to create a brand wherein different homes, in different offices, wherever you go you still have a label of Internet of Tobi wherever you go, and that label is solving problems in the grassroots, solving problems in the African region. Aside from solving problems, which is well known all over the worldMr. Oyinlola Oluwatobi – Solar Pocha Nigeria
Since then, Oluwatobi has been on a campaign to get public universities in Nigeria to adopt and invest in putting up the Solar Workstations in University grounds. So far he has managed to install two workstations in his alma mater, University of Lagos. He is on a marketing campaign to get policy leaders and legislatures to adopt the innovation for to install in institutions .
However, setting up the workstations hasn’t gone without some challenges. For Instance, putting together the workstations involves around 90% welding of metals. Getting skilled labour for this work has been a challenge fo him. Listen to my conversation with Mr Oluwatobi on my podcast here.
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