On the 5th of August in 1987, a boy by the name of William Kamkwamba was born in a small village called Kasungu in Malawi.  Like others, his family of nine (9) subsisted on crops they planted and sold on the market.

In 2002, Malawi was struck by the worst drought in 50 years.  The fields which the family used to put food on the table soon dried up and all that was left was hunger and starvation.  Soon thereafter, William was forced to drop out of school because they could no longer afford to pay the (approximate) R800 a year in tuition fees.  He was 14 years old at the time.

William became like other boys in the village; he stayed at home and played in the dusty compounds, accompanied by an angry growl of his empty stomach turning against him every now and again. One day, he went to a local library, and because he couldn’t read that well, he picked up a book entitled “Using Energy”, which had a big picture of a windmill and how it could be used to irrigate crop and generate electricity. He became glued to the book and set out to build his own windmill.

William followed the illustrations and pictorial instructions to scavenge for materials and scraps in neighbouring villages and scrapyards.  Among others, he collected a bicycle frame, a radiator fan (from a tractor) and other material, and stashed them at home.

“My mother thought I had gone crazy.” William recalls

As with all people that are intoxicated by a crazy idea, he carried on and completed his windmill within four months. His home became the first in the village to have electricity; his windmill generated 12 volts, which powered four (4) lightbulbs and two (2) radios.

Soon thereafter the story spread and eventually reached journalists who fuelled it even more.  In 2007, now 19 years old, he was invited to speak at a TED conference where he moved the audience and got a scholarship to complete his studies.  Today William is an Engineer and a New York Times Bestselling Author, and was named “30 people under 30 Changing the World” by the Times Magazine.  He leads an organisation called, “Moving Windmills”, which raises funds to build schools and teaches people how to build and maintain windmills to generate their own electricity and irrigate crop.  Their motto is, “African Solutions for African Problems.”

Now then:  What is our excuse?

Vusi Sindane