By | July 12, 2021

Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering 

Master’s student, Ridaa Manuel is excited after being selected as one of 12 finalists in the national finals of the 2021 Young Talent Challenge.

The Young Talent Challenge is a competition for postgraduate students enrolled at universities in Africa. Four students are selected to represent their university to complete a series of challenges that give them an opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the Enlit Africa digital conference and exhibition. This is an opportunity to disrupt the industry with innovative and new ways of thinking.

During the digital event, the Young Talent finalists have the opportunity to present their solutions to the audience of Enlit Africa Connect. Each team also has a five to ten-minute opportunity to pitch their innovation to a prestigious committee of judges.

The Cape Town-born Manuel says making it to the finals and having to present his vision was enough for him.  “Whether I won or not I will continue working to materialise the vision of taking energy into Africa.”

 This completion gave his start-up business, Green New World, some good exposure, “and I hope that some investors will come forward as a result of it. My vision is to build a low-cost integrated system that accesses as many renewable energy sources as possible.”  As Green New World develops this system, each part of the system will be sold as products to the general public. This will fund the building of these systems in Africa.  “It is, therefore, run both as a full-on business and a vehicle to serve the people of Africa. Any investors who wish to be a part of this journey and vision may contact me. In the meantime we work with whatever resources we have to move the cause forward,” he says.

Manuel’s research aligns completely with his purpose in designing an off-grid renewable energy system to solve the energy access problem in Africa. “Once we discover our purpose, everything including our studies must be in line with it and must serve that higher purpose,” he continues.

“[In the finals] most contestants spoke about the use of very high tech renewable energy technology and expensive plans. I spoke of solving the energy issue using renewable energy technology that is built using low-cost materials, powered by resources that are freely found all over Africa and are built by the people of Africa. A low-cost, home-grown solution that is built by the people of Africa.”

Department of Electrical Electronic and Computer Engineering Senior Lecturer and Researcher, Dr Atanda Raji described Manuel as a very hard-working, passionate individual and creative thinker. “He already had a vision for the future and this competition was a platform for him to express that vision,”  Raji says. 

He adds: “I am indeed delighted and proud that one of my postgraduate students has been honoured in this way. It is good to know that his hard work has been recognised and acknowledged.” Raji says Manuel has always portrayed dedication and passion in his research endeavours. “My research team, the Center for Distributed Power and Electronic Systems, is indeed proud of the achievement of one of our own students who has achieved such worthy recognition.”

Raji stated that for the department, it’s indeed an “honour and it is validation that our students, many of who come from difficult and challenging backgrounds, can compete and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their peers from other universities when it comes to research outputs and outcomes”.  

Manuel was impressed by the presentations of the other contestants, most of them being PhD candidates. “I wish to also reach that level of studying in the near future as I continue my research for solving Africa’s energy problem”.

Kingsley Akpeji, a University of Cape Town PhD candidate from Nigeria, was chosen as the winner from the 12 finalists.