Miguel Dias ’17, Samantha (Yu) Wang ’17 and Yadel Okorie ’17 were announced winners of the 2015 Social Venture Challenge at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference, for their project Bright Energy Africa (BEA)—a social enterprise that works to convert agricultural waste into fuel briquettes. The group received $5,000 in seed funding, the highest amount awarded, for their project based in Tanzania.

Hosted by the Resolution Project, the Social Venture Challenge is an international business plan-style competition, designed to inspire students to develop solutions to pressing social issues around the world. This year the competition received close to 200 applications.

The team joined more than 1,000 student leaders from over 80 countries and different academic backgrounds, including medical school and MBA students, at the University of Miami for the annual CGI U conference. “It was a humbling experience to share our ideas and to learn about all the amazing and innovative projects young people around the world are implementing in the name of social change,” said Samantha (Yu) Wang, an electrical engineering student. Yadel Okorie, a mechanical engineering sophomore, added, “Bright Energy Africa plans to use the seed funding to establish its first pilot production plant in Arusha, Tanzania. Over the next two years we hope to employ and provide income to over 100 underrepresented Tanzanians.”

In addition to the receiving the highest amount of funding, the team is now part of the selective Resolution Fellowship program that provides ongoing mentorship with industry leaders, pro-bono support, and access to a network of over 600 social entrepreneurs.

The Bright Energy Africa project began last summer, when Miguel Dias spent 2 months in Tanzania working with Violet Ayoub, founder of the local NGO Vision for Youth. “Together we have created a social enterprise focused on providing income generating opportunities for unemployed youth and women, while providing households with a healthier, cheaper, and more efficient fuel solution to charcoal,” explained Dias, a sophomore studying biomedical engineering.

Bright Energy Africa hopes to create a nation of well-qualified, healthy and passionate individuals capable of addressing Tanzania’s most pressing social, economic and environmental issues.

The Bright Energy Africa team greatly appreciates the support from the Biomedical Engineering Department, the Mechanical Engineering Department, and the Office for the Dean of Student Life for making this opportunity possible. To learn more about Bright Energy Africa, visit brightenergyafrica.weebly.com.