Samuelle Asante had a foolproof plan after high school, which did not include studying Business Administration at Ashesi. Her goal was to choose law as a major and work towards becoming a lawyer someday. What she thought was a foolproof plan changed. Instead, she, with her parents, decided on a Business Administration major in Ashesi.
This change, her new reality, took some adjusting. In the first few months of the first year, her interest in entrepreneurship piqued. She came to love her Foundation of Design and Entrepreneurship (FDE) course, which helped her unearth her drive for entrepreneurship.
In her first year at Ashesi, like several students at Ashesi, Samuelle Asante caught the entrepreneurship bug. The Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship class, required for all students, had helped her uncover a drive for problem-solving. Even though she had to do some adjusting from her original plan to study law and be a legal professional, she found herself enjoying her classes as a Business Administration student at Ashesi.
“I didn’t know I had an entrepreneurial bone in me, but being in Ashesi unearthed my drive and passion for business management,” Samuelle says. “The Foundations of Design and Entrepreneurship course made me think incessantly of numerous ways to solve issues I encountered daily.”
This drive, coupled with the lessons of a 2015 electricity crisis in Ghana that led to widespread and frequent power outages, inspired her to start Kaniya Energy with a group of like-minded friends at Ashesi. Kaniya Energy is a start-up that uses organic photovoltaic (OPV) cell technology to design safe and affordable solar-powered lighting alternatives for households and individuals living in areas with inconsistent energy supply.
Even though her co-founders moved on to other projects and initiatives, Samuelle stayed with the start-up and focused on improving their initial prototype for a solar bag. With the help of an initial focus group of people from the Berekuso community, she tested the initial product prototype and collated feedback. Samuelle then worked with a peer from the Engineering class to implement the feedback and redesigned the solar bag.
With her eyes set on formalising her business, Samuelle applied for funding support from Ashesi’s Ford Foundation Fund for Service to Youth and Children and was awarded a grant of $5,000. The fund supports student projects focused on solving or mitigating challenges affecting children and young people.
To date, Kaniya has developed two products – the Kaniya Kotoku and Kaniya Energy Needs Index (KENI). Kaniya Kotoku is an OPV solar bag and lamp set designed to provide alternative lighting solutions for children in areas with inconsistent or no electricity, giving them at least two additional hours of the night for studying. The Kaniya Energy Needs Index (KENI) helps quantify the energy needs of individuals and households across Africa. With these two products, Kaniya is focused on contributing to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 7, 8, 12 and 13. After her graduation this year, Samuelle applied to join the Ashesi Venture Incubator and was accepted as a 2021 fellow.
In August of this year, Samuelle applied for the Ghana Industrial Summit & Exhibition (GISE’21) pitch contest organised by The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) in partnership with the Volta River Authority (VRA). After making it to the top 7 out of 30 candidates, Samuelle Asante won the Pitch Contest at the finals in August at the Accra International Conference Centre. She was awarded an extensive prize package from Mastercard Foundation, McGill University, AABN, the Volta River Authority (VRA), including a cash reward of $7,000.
“The win meant a lot to me, especially as a young woman in a male-dominated industry,” Samuelle shared. “I was the only woman and the youngest to compete in the contest.”
With the prize package and emerging research on OPV cells, Kaniya hopes to improve existing products and develop more products to help solve various energy-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).