Patrick Ngowi believes that if opportunity knocks, answer. He once said: “It was a business on the side, nothing serious, but I loved the fact that I was making money and I was becoming a bit independent. The very foundation of the little success I’ve achieved was formed during those years. I learned about profit and loss, about margins, about marketing and hiring the right people – I learned so many things at that stage”.
Patrick Ngowi is Tanzanian business celebrity who started as an entrepreneur at the tender age of 15. In the beginning, he earned money on the side during high school, but later he became a founder and chairman of Helvetic Group of Companies. Today, this is the fastest growing network of renewable energy companies in East Africa. Ngowi is also a chairman of the United Nations Global Compact in Tanzania. Patrick Ngowi is also a board member and advisor to several local companies in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.
When he was 18, Patrick Ngowi got engaged in trading cell phones as he discovered that cell phones in Asia were cheaper to buy than in Tanzania. The young entrepreneur bought cheap models from Chinese manufacturers and sold them to Tanzania’s gadget enthusiasts at much higher prices. This first start-up gave Ngowi a $150,000 profit.
Patrick Ngowi founded Helvetic Solar when he was 22 to provide renewable energy solutions for clients in Tanzania, the United States, making $8 million in revenues. In 2013, Helvetic Solar was awarded the Fastest Growing and Number One in Tanzania’s Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies Survey.
As it is widely known, a lack of electricity is one of the most important questions on the agenda of many African governments. As for Tanzania, its electric power grid meets only 10% of the population’s electricity needs. The problem is that the lack of electricity makes a negative impact on most companies, government agencies and wealthy families that depend on electrical generators.
What Ngowi was doing when selling low-cost cell phones and traveling back and forth from China to Tanzania was learning about solar panels and renewable energy. Ngowi realised that this was a new business opportunity that was knocking his door, so he decided to answer. Therefore, he founded Helvetic Solar Contractors, to help his country manage the energy crisis. This little start-up was transformed into the Helvetic Group. Ngowi’s company has installed 6,000 rooftop solar systems. He also founded similar companies in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.
Helvetic Group is known to partner with The Climate Reality Project to make the renewable energy solutions more affordable and accessible for as many Tanzanians as possible. Ngowi’s non-profit social initiative, Light For Life Foundation, is known to provide free solar power to women living in the villages of Tanzania providing better access to clean renewable energy.
This story sounds like Patrick Ngowi was just lucky to notice easy ways to make money but his journey to success wasn’t an easy one. To start selling China-made cell phones, he took a loan of $1,800 from his mother, and one of his close friends sponsored his travel to China. Patrick Ngowi has been featured by Forbes as one of “10 Young African Millionaires to Watch”.