Back to stories Electrifying Grandmother
Zayed Solar Academy
Location Malawi
Year / Category 2014 / Global High Schools – Africa
Impact Established the Zayed Energy & Ecology Centre and the first Zayed Solar Academy, training solar technicians.


Joyce Mhango is a solar electrical technician from rural Malawi who can assemble, install, maintain and repair solar PV home systems. She’s also a widow, a grandmother and a mother of six that is helping to bring electricity to her community.

This work is crucial, since only 1% of rural communities in Malawi are connected to the national grid, forcing children living in villages to study and read by candlelight or with a kerosene lamp, if available, and compelling the workday to end at sunset.

Joyce is part of a first-of-its-kind programme established by the Zayed Solar Academy to provide an all-women’s programme to train rural solar electrical engineers through hands-on learning for women of all ages and education levels.

It’s a new model designed to serve people just like Joyce who live in the most rural communities, and often are the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach, poorest, least mobile and least educated.
The programme also provides business training, so the women are prepared to run their own businesses selling and installing solar equipment.

Since winning the Zayed Future Energy Prize in the Global High Schools category in 2014, the Zayed Solar Academy has grown into a technical college, developed the first solar curriculum for Malawi, and won European Union funding to develop solar training centres in six institutions around Malawi. Future plans include developing the Zayed Solar Research and Training Centre for Rural Electrification for Africa, a think tank and research centre.

Once upon a time, Joyce supported her family by selling bananas and used clothes. Today, she’s not only earning a better income, but she’s also helping to bring the transformative power of solar energy to her entire community.