William Kamkwamba

The story of William Kamkwamba is one of a boy from Malawi who had to leave school at 14 because a famine hit his country and he had to work to keep his family going. He had a burning desire to learn though and a passionate interest in science and technology.

He found a local school library where the librarian let him read books on electricity and other scientific subjects. He could hardly read but he was able to follow the diagrams.

He put together an idea to build a windmill out of scrap parts that could be found all over the place. Many thought him mad but he continued to follow his dream.

In the picture you can see how he constructed a windmill from old bits of wood and even an old bicycle. It really worked and brought the first electricity to his village.

His story was picked up by a passing journalist and eventually by an American journalist who spends a lot of his time in Africa covering many of the horrible events there, Bryan Mealer.

Bryan saw this as an opportunity to show the world that “good things do come out of Africa”. This was a true story of the achievement of human potential and the harnessing of windpower to create a solution to a problem. It was about self-help and the great human desire to keep on learning (which is why I am highlighting it in my blog about lifetime learning).

I got to know about William’s story through the amazing TED series of talks (see my page “Recent learning” ).

William was flown to the U.S.A. to do a talk for TED. He had never been on a plane before and never slept in a hotel bed! He amazed a very sophisticated and academic audience with his story and how he had taught himself how to construct a working windmill. He gave another TED talk two  years later. The links are:



Please look at the videos and then get hold of the book (I have ordered my copy but it has yet to be published over here in the U.K.).

I am now a friend of William and Bryan on Facebook and follow their Tweets on Twitter. I feel that William’s story needs to be heard because it has all the things that I am interested in. It shows how technology can bring about development for the good and it also shows that we are learning all our lives.

William is still a young man. He is now studying in South Africa as well as doing lecture tours with Bryan in the U.S.A. where his book has reached the Top 10 Books of the Year in the Amazon.Com list.


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