The boy who harnessed the wind – a true story of spirited entrepreneurship

William Kamkwamba grew up on his family farm in Malawi. He was forced to drop out of secondary school because his family could not pay the fees. As drought, deforestation, flood and famine hit his village, he began to search for a solution. He borrowed books from his former school’s library and it was there that he first learned about wind turbines.

First, he built a small model. He found an empty plastic jar, sawed off the bottom, and then fanned four large strips of plastic out into blades with a hole through the centre. He then planted a bamboo pole in the ground and waited for the wind to do its magic.

Realising that the blades were just too short, he found a piece of pipe buried under some bricks and sawed off a long section, cutting it down the middle. He borrowed the motor from his friend’s radio cassette player and attached the motor and the plastic lid with some wire to the bamboo. Now he had two gears, but the frictionless lid slipped. The answer?  He began to scour the local rubbish tip for some rubber, and found a discarded shoe.

Eventually, his prototype was assembled. The wind blew, the blades spun, the wheel began to turn and the radio crackled into life. He had learned how to generate electricity from wind power!

So, what can we learn about the spirit of entrepreneurship from William’s remarkable story?

  • Necessity is the mother of invention
  • Knowledge is power
  • Courage is stronger than doubt
  • Every risk you take creates new opportunities
  • Failure is never the end of ambition