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D-Lab’s work brings solar energy to Africa

When he started his junior year after working for a company that made him incompetent, Jodie Wu ’09 was questioning his approach as an engineer. Participating in the D-Lab project in Tanzania reveals a way to leverage its engineering interests to help support emerging markets in Africa and its potential impacts.

Wu recalls being stupid the first time he went to Africa: “As a student, you think you can save the world in three weeks.” But with this journey and a number of return visits through the MIT Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center, she began to understand the magnitude of the problems that rural people face there – problems that they are still struggling to cope with for more than a decade.

Now a resident of Rwanda, he is a COO at OffGridBox, a Boston-based company whose entire system uses solar energy to pay for batteries and water purification. Its clients include NGOs, businesses, farms, schools, hospitals and clinics, as well as homeowners.


After completing their studies, Wu ran Global Cycle Solutions, which was set up to bring bicycle corn to smallholder farmers in Tanzania after winning the MIT $ 100K Entrepreneurship Competition. “The part that impressed me the most in Tanzania was how people can get less and less generous,” he says. “And I haven’t changed because I love the preaching work. Some people may think, ‘Oh, washing buckets, car crashes – it’s hard work,’ but for me, I like to do this. ”

When Wu went to rural areas trying to sell his maize and became fluent in Swahili, he felt that solar products were very important in the region. He moved Global Cycle Solutions to share solar power before selling the business in 2017.

Wu contacted OffGridBox because the original solar panels – which are in a single 6x6x6 footer – offered him as a stable, affordable and economically viable solution for remote and remote areas. The benefits of the boxes are particularly evident during the epidemic: the company was funded through the USAID Power Africa Opportunities Program to supply electricity to six public hospitals, which treat thousands of patients a month.

Wu says the site was previously inadequate, especially for refrigerators, stergers, and baby boilers. It now has 24/7 power. “OffGridBox helps nurses and doctors save lives,” he says. “About 60% of the health facilities in sub-Saharan Africa have no electricity. There is a lot of work to be done.”

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