What you need to know:
Innovation. Engineer Peter Nyeko is co-founder of Mandulis Energy. He is an aerospace engineer and Cleantech entrepreneur; a graduate of the University of Bristol. He runs renewable energy and agriculture projects in Lamwo. He enjoys learning and figuring out solutions to what some people call problems. A fortnight ago, he won the 2021 Scalable Climate Solutions Challenge organised by Dutch Fund for Climate and Development (DFCD). Mandulis developed a concept to process agricultural waste from small farmers into electricity.
How would you say you got to where you are today? he beginning
There are a number of hymns that define my journey. I have been a Sunday school teacher so hymns are a crucial part of my journey. One is ‘Great is thy faithfulness’.
I can sing it in Spanish, French, Arabic, Latin, Luo, and in English. For the faithfulness of God, many doors that were closed 10 years ago, are open today. I have a lot of gratitude to the ecosystems that have supported me along the way, in Uganda and Makerere University; the Renewable Energy incubator- they were the first people to believe in us.
It was under the Uganda Energy Credit Conservation Company, an initiative of the Ministry of Finance and Minister of Energy in Uganda. They spotted us and brought on board KfW and later the African Development Bank, UN and Vatican.
How have you used the opportunities and presented to you to change lives?
We run an on-grid and off-grid renewable energy infrastructure that helps farmers add value to their produce in Uganda and beyond. We have had people joining us on our mission from every country and ecosystem you can imagine.
You have a network of your friends, how do you explain and quantify the notion that your network is your net worth?
They are building blocks; the fireplace where wisdom is shared and ideas are shared. Your friends can tell you comfortably, where you have gone wrong. They can tell you where you can improve.
If you have a good network, they can be honest with you and they can help build you. Having friends who you can look up to and can encourage you in every area, makes a massive difference.
It matters if you are inspired in a particular area to friends because life has multiple facets. They will encourage me in an area where I am not strong. Like that, we become not just the best that we can be, but the best of the sum of the parts that we are. And that’s what’s very special.
What about your job brings you alive?
It is the joy you get when you see and feel the joy around you. When a village gets electricity for the very first time. When the elders say words that are so moving, it just makes you realise you know, ‘I couldn’t be doing anything else, I could not be doing anything’.
One old lady and her husband sang a song which is so moving to this very day, because I didn’t realise that it was so important to them to have access to electricity and clean drinking water.
In the song, they explained what it means to them. They have lived for 80 years without power and now they can switch on their life; they no longer need to grind because there is a mill, and do not have to go and collect firewood and water because there’s clean water that doesn’t give them typhoid.
There is an alternative fire that they can use for cooking without cutting down trees, and pregnant women don’t have to walk 10 kilometres to get health care because there is an ambulance to get them there.
If you were to invite someone for a cup of tea or coffee; dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you chat about over the hot beverage?
Nefertiti, one of the old female heroes of the ancient Egyptian civilisation. I would love to have a chat with about the novelty of running and its engineers were the centre of knowledge. Africa’s medics were the centre of knowledge. Africa was the centre of knowledge, innovation and all that. It would be wonderful to get a peek into her court.
I would have liked to speak to her wise people, engineers, professors and figure out how they were able to use what they had then, which is less than what we have today, which is simply the nature that God has gifted this valley and turn it into the centre of the world.
That would inspire us to figure out today where we not only have the same nature of the same gift, but we have the advantage of interconnectedness of the whole world.
If they could be the very best then, I believe every single Ugandan in whatever they do, when they put in the time to put in the effort, believe with faith, and perseverance, and love of labour, labour of love, will find the Nefertiti within, the Pharaoh within.
As an employer, how do you bring the best out of those you lead, as a team leader?
It comes down to being very honest with everyone I work with and letting them know that we’re not doing this for glory. We are not doing this for money, we’re not doing this for honour but to be taught, have a journey and heart, have a vision and a mission, to power a future.
And to encourage each of them to be the best that they can be. And we help them be the best that they can be, in many ways, through training and access to different things.
To let them know that ultimately, we are an ecosystem. We are a family, of colleagues, and the future is bright and beautiful. Many came through our doors and gone on to do great things, and we will encourage them.
As a young company, we understand that we may be part of people’s journeys to get them to where they can do even better. And those who feel the passion and feel the conviction that we feel with endurance, even stay and grow with us and help us sow seeds of Uganda’s brilliance in other parts of the world.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, seek that and all else shall be given unto you’. It’s a case of whatever one’s platform of faith is, let one’s lights shine. Let’s create sustainably and building on from it
What’s the last good movie you watched?
My goodness! Wow! I will have to give it to the ‘Sound of Music’. It reverberates to me a lot.
This is a great musical story of inspiration, and the story over the journey and the story of realities and overcoming challenges, of hope, and always looking for the brighter moment in every moment.
You have made a tie in Uganda flag colours your signature wear, what explains your choice?
It is an honour I hold for the nation that birthed it. It may have only become in modern parlance Uganda in less than the last century but to me, this flag represents everything that was between the source of the Nile and the mountains in the North, the hills along the eastern boundary and mountains along the western boundary.
This place that we call Uganda, today, is very special, going back to the cradle of civilisation.
And it is an incredible honour to call this my home, to call these the land of my ancestors, and so I celebrate everyone.