Spotlight: Sebastian Manchester

Back in 2013, Dal alum Sebastian Manchester (BEng’12, MASc’14) could not make sense of it

- June 5, 2023

“We’re building a solution that will help light up the whole continent.” (Supplied photo)
“We’re building a solution that will help light up the whole continent.” (Supplied photo)

How could 1.2 billion people around the world “ be living without access to electricity? After all, the technology exists, and the cost of solar energy and batteries was falling fast.” He deduced it was a matter of accessibility.

A possible solution came to him a decade ago while he was working towards his second degree from Dal, a master’s in applied sciences with a special focus on energy storage for renewable energy integrations.

Manchester collaborated with his friend and fellow engineer, Jeff Schnurr, who at the time was working on climate change adaptation solutions in Tanzania. There, the majority of people had cell phones but nowhere to charge them, and lit their homes with kerosene. “What if we used solar power to charge small, rechargeable battery packs—with just enough energy to power their basic necessities for a few days?”

They didn’t know if the idea would work but were willing to try.

Fast forward to today, and Manchester is the co- founder and CTO of Jaza Energy, a company powering homes in over 100 rural communities in Tanzania and Nigeria through a network of solar-powered recharging stations, or “Jaza Hubs.”

“The Hubs are one-stop energy shops,” says Manchester. “The solar panels on the roofs generate enough energy to charge battery packs for hundreds of homes, powering things like lights, TVs, and boomboxes for up to three days.”

Jaza—a name of Swahili origin signifying “charge”— employs people from all over the world to see its mission through. “Our team spans from Halifax to Nigeria, Tanzania, and China.” says Manchester. “We also employ over 100 ‘JazaStars,’ who are women from the communities we serve that manage the Hubs. It’s been incredible to see them all become real technology and business leaders in their communities.”

Manchester says he’s inspired by a combination of being able to build products that make a difference for people, while working alongside a team of smart and passionate people from around the world.

“I’ve been so lucky to have this experience,” he says. “We’re building a solution that will help light up the whole continent and make a dent in the 1.2 billion people without electricity. And to think, we’re only just getting started.”

This story appeared in the DAL Magazine Spring/Summer 2023 issue. Flip through the rest of the issue using the links below.


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