August 25, 2017

Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumnus Tackles Energy Challenges in Zambia

Kakoma Mutenda lives a passionate life. Four specific passions drive all of his endeavors: business, science and technology, African political history, and food and drink. At first glance these things might not appear to have all that much in common, but according to Kakoma they share one crucial characteristic—they can all be broken down to basic, yet teachable mechanics. Kakoma believes that applying mechanical thinking to energy, specifically biofuel (fuel derived from living matter), is the future of our world and can be accomplished through community improvement projects in his home country of Zambia. His passion to address the severe energy crisis in rural African communities led to his participation in exchange programs on education, business, and energy.  With his increased knowledge, Kakoma believes he can help alleviate the crisis.

Kakoma has taken part in two unique exchange programs. Tailored to his unique needs, Professional Fellows helped Kakoma rethink how he conducts business practices. As a part of the three-week program, he met with business experts from various companies in the energy and biofuel sectors to discuss the mechanics of biofuels, business practices around biofuels, and new technology and innovation in the energy field.  As he exchanged knowledge with professional contacts, Kakoma also learned about American-style networking during his home stay in Denver, Colorado with a young entrepreneur who worked from home.  Through preparing him for meetings with various company executives and taking him to events, Alex showed him how Americans conducted business—with authority and confidence—which Kakoma observed is much different from the shy, apologetic nature of Zambian business practices.

As a part of his second exchange program, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Kakoma spent six weeks studying business administration at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He credits this program for expanding his network both in the United States and in Africa.  Now, during his travels in Africa, he always has a warm welcome from old friends from his previous exchanges. His time at Rutgers studying business and entrepreneurship culminated in the Washington, D.C. summit, where 1,000 young African leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa joined together for three days of networking, participation in skills-building workshops, and engagement with leading experts.

Kakoma is now channeling his passion into a community project, funded by a grant through his participation in the Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminar (Alumni TIES) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Access to Energy for All.  Through TIES, he deepened his knowledge of energy management, particularly sustainable supply chain management. As a follow-up, he is now conducting workshops in three technical high schools in Zambia to encourage youth to explore their curiosity in STEM to solve local energy challenges.  Kakoma believes that the most important investment we can make is in the education of children.  Through them, change can be established and sustained for generations to come.

Photo Courtesy of Yunus & Youth.