Koena Elliot Mokobocho

It’s not often that you hear or even read the words; Lesotho and innovation in the same sentence. The country has been oblivious to its potential for decades now, ignoring abundant natural resources, scenic landscapes, and people that are hungry for a future. Sure, Moshoeshoe I was a natural-born leader and displayed an innovative model of leadership, but that was over two centuries ago. There is a wide gap in our system; we need new ideas and inventions with the capability of sustaining our entire nation and we need them today.

Fortunately, the youth of our mountainous Kingdom are conscious of this great lack and are currently (and have been for a while now) working towards solving the problem.

At an event held at the Manthabiseng Convention Center; 51 of the most innovative of Basotho’s youth, presented their inventive ideas to a host of potential investors and other youth. The event was created and hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Lesotho in collaboration with the Ministry of Information Communications, Science, Technology and Innovation and Ministry Gender, Youth, Sports, Arts, Culture and Social Development which took place over the course of five days. The inventions or ideas presented needed to highlight and address areas that Lesotho has been performing poorly in; the consistent access to renewable and sustainable energy for example.

Presentations made by the youth were diverse and spanned across multiple sectors and industries; including energy, clothing and textile, engineering, construction that is inexpensive and sustainable, and horticulture. Their propositions also touched on several issues faced by the country and how Lesotho can recover from its downward spiral and reap tremendous benefits at the same time. Some of the subjects that were addressed by these projects included; job creation and sustainability, the large-scale production of goods, access to water and energy in rural areas, and access to raw materials to enable large-scale production.

During the event, Informative News Journalist had a chance to walk around the halls of the convention center and interact with the innovators and aspiring changemakers of the country. Some of them had put up working prototypes of their inventions – to demonstrate how they work and explain how they can transform lives. From prototype Jet engines to livable décor and interior designs inspired by the Basotho culture. The paintings, furniture, and baskets made out of maize husks, reminded us of how rich and deep-rooted our culture is, and how we need to be able to preserve and share it with other cultures.

While I wandered the halls and made interactions, I encountered Lenkoe Moorosi; a passionate young man with a dream and mission to light up Lesotho. Having lived in rural Mohale’s Hoek, Lenkoe knows the struggles of not having access to reliable and consistent energy systems. Day-to-day tasks that take city dwellers minutes, can take hours for the vast majority of people living in rural Lesotho. Think about how long it takes to boil water with an electrical kettle; now, imagine how much longer it would take on a wood-burning fire with a stainless steel kettle or something much less practical, like a tin can.

Lenkoe hopes to provide a remedy for this problem. His solution is a hybrid atmospheric generator. The machine “harvests protons and neutrons from the air” and turns them into pure electrical energy that can be stored in supercapacitators over long periods. X-9 Power Tech is the name of Lenkoe Moorosi’s energy company and their mission is to be a leading energy provider in the sustainable energy industry by the year 2026. They also aspire to expand and assist in solving the energy crisis in South Africa. Lenkoe aspires to have a power plant for these generators, he also emphasized the fact that they do not require fuel to function and how that answers the call for green energy. The plant will employ thousands of young people and provide competitive salaries.

Remember in the beginning there was a mention of jet engines? Nkopane Matlali made one. For those of us who are unsure, a jet engine is a machine that uses air to power aircraft or to create electricity. Nkopane wants to make an airplane that can fly safely at very low altitudes, giving better views of our charming landscapes, a great opportunity for the tourists that love mountains.

When asked what inspired the idea, “Ke motho ea ratang lifofane” was his answer. He was so passionate and dedicated to the idea of working with and owning airplanes that he started researching them. Later on, he decided that to have an actual foundation in aircraft manufacturing, he would make an engine for a plane.

Nkopane Matlali wants to go much further with help from investors, he wants to make improvements to the jet engine and maybe even make more. He still dreams of building an airplane for the very engine he made. Nkopane wants young people to know that they need to work hard to achieve their goals. He faced a lot of trials and tribulations to get to the point he is today, he makes it clear that if he had given up, he would have never made it this far. “Hlokoana la bophelo le tholoa liretseng”, he exclaimed.

A gentle reminder to the person sitting on a potentially brilliant idea; just do it! It takes a lot of determination and much more waiting, but it is possible. To those living in the rural and remote areas of the country, always remember that Maseru is not the only district where innovative ideas exist, young people from different parts of the country, fortunate enough to be selected to present their ideas at the convention center are a testament to that fact.