From hopelessness to a green energy empire – this refugee refused to give up

Refugee Innocent Tshilombo turned his life around with his entrepreneurial spirit. Picture: Pexels

Refugee Innocent Tshilombo turned his life around with his entrepreneurial spirit. Picture: Pexels

Published Jun 20, 2023


To succeed in business and achieve your dreams, you have to be determined to fight against all odds.

And these odds can can be even higher when you come from a marginalised background.

Still, difficult circumstances should not dissuade an aspiring entrepreneur, because success is possible - just ask refugee Innocent Tshilombo.

Despite being dealt a bad hand in life, he managed to turn things around after fleeing to Kenya from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where several of his relatives were killed. Once there, he was determined to make a positive difference in the world.

Tshilombo’s friends gave him a $70 (R1 270) loan to build a solar-powered internet kiosk that would allow him and the other residents of the Kakuma refugee camp to connect to the outside world.

‘’For people in the camp to be independent, they need a stream of income. It can’t come from physical work but it can happen in the digital world, where there are less restrictions,” Tshilombo told ‘The African Mirror’.

The innovative entrepreneur also applied for numerous minor start-up awards, and obtained a scholarship from the American online university, University of the People. Thanks to his internet-connected device, he graduated with a degree in business administration.

But Tshilombo’s search for a better life was far from over, so he established a company to erect cost-effective and reliable solar-powered internet nodes across the refugee camp.

So far, he has installed 20 internet nodes and aims to reach 100. Many of his fellow 200 000 migrants are now able to study, find work, and start their own virtual enterprises online thanks to the solar-powered internet nodes.

Tshilombo not only won the 2022 Ashden Award, a prestigious international prize for sustainable energy projects, but has gone from being a refugee with no hope to becoming a green energy entrepreneur.

IOL Business