Light for Africa

DS completedJean Seraphin Kepguep received a warm welcome during a visit to his native Cameroon. The people in his village were happy to see him, and his grandmother cooked his favourite meal. Because Kepguep arrived in the dark, however, the meal had to be prepared in the light of a kerosene lamp. He was eagerly looking forward to the food, but unfortunately the feast did not happen. The kerosene seeped out of the lamp and onto his favourite dish.

As in many other countries around the equator, it is pitch dark there as soon as the sun goes down. The night is illuminated with kerosene lamps, and that can cause major problems. The lamps do not always close correctly. Children burn themselves with the oil, and houses catch fire. “I wanted to find a solution for this”, explains Kepguep.

Based on his studies (Applied Earth Sciences) and his African background, Kepguep knew which alternatives to the kerosene lamp would and would not work. “It would have to be a lamp that would benefit the entire community, and not only one family. It would also have to be durable, inexpensive, easy to repair and more than simply a source of light.”

Fireflies formed a source of inspiration for his Ndassie lamp. “As a child, I tried to catch them and put them in a jar, so that I would always have light. That obviously did not work. But even then I was an engineer, intensely involved with light.” Because the sun shines all day long in Cameroon, he wanted to create a light source based on solar energy.

A large solar panel now graces his grandmother’s house. It is connected to a bright green in-home charging station with five shelves. On each shelf, twenty lamps can be charged at one time. “That’s not all: you can also charge a mobile phone on the lamp. In Africa, this is almost as important as light.”

Kepguep emphasises that this system makes light available to almost everyone. “Someone with a lamp could also ask for money in exchange for charging someone else’s mobile phone.” In addition to generating light, the Ndassie lamp also reduces poverty. His ageing grandmother is benefiting from it as well. “Because the charging station is in her house, people are always coming to charge their lamps. I therefore know that people are keeping an eye on her and caring for her.” Even if the durable system should break, locally trained people would be able to repair it.

The Ndassie lamp has already won several prizes. The idea grew into an actual product without external funding, but with considerable help from students and researchers at TU Delft, as well as from coaches and supporters. “The first shipment of lamps and charging stations is now ready for use. Not just in Africa, but also in other parts of the world without electricity, in Asia and South America for example.”

Delft Social Impact

Ndassie Engineering will be collaborating with Delft Social Impact, a platform where students and scientists can share their projects for developing countries. Although there is considerable activity in this area at TU Delft, the projects are not centrally coordinated, and people are thus not aware of what others are doing. Delft Social Impact is a central desk to which alumni, interested parties, students and scientists can turn with questions about projects and for help with promoting the various projects. 

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