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William Kamkwamba

African Inventors

January, 2010
This young and talented African inventor was born in 1987 in Malawi, his country, in a village called Masitala, a hamlet in Kasungu District. At age 14 (in year 2001) he built an electric windmill out of junk. His dream that has since come true was to bring electricity and running water to his village.

His story is narrated in the book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, written by himself & journalist Bryan Mealer.

William Kamkwamba was forced to drop out of school because his parents who are farmers could not afford the $80 school fees following a drought in Malawi. Undeterred, the young boy decided to learn by himself. He went to a local library that was funded by USAID. He then realized that he was fascinated by science.

One day, he found a book in which he saw the picture of a windmill and realized that the windmill could make electricity and help pump water. He thought the device could be a defense against hunger in his village. So he decided he could also build one just by looking at the figures and pictures because the book was not about building a windmill. He figured out by himself how to make one.

He made a turbine from spare bicycle parts, a tractor fan blade and an old shock absorber. He then produced windmill blades from plastic pipes, flattened by heating over a fire. He sometimes got a few electric shocks while climbing the windmill. The windmill he has built is 5 meters (16 feet) tall and was made with a blue-gum-tree (eucalyptus) wood tower.

William later on built another windmill, 'the Green Machine', which is used to turn a water pump to irrigate his family's field. Since then the life of this young Malawian who had never left his village has changed, being even praised by former US vice President and Nobel laureate Al-Gore, among others. He's invited to prestigious technological conferences and even the Wall Street Journal wrote an article about him.

He is now on a scholarship program at the elite African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. He wants to study in the United States and one of his dreams is to own his own windmill manufacturing company and transfer his knowledge to fellow Africans. Only true dreams deeply rooted in someone's heart and mind come true.

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