A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Let There Be Lights

By Lindsay Bernhards, BA '18 on October 18, 2018

Urenna Onyewuchi, BS Electrical Engineering ’05, MS Electrical Engineering ’08, has been passionate about improving Africa’s access to reliable electricity from a young age.

“Access to electricity in Nigeria and the entire continent of Africa is very low: about 50 percent [have access] in Nigeria and 30 percent in Africa,” she says.

Urenna Onyewuchi

Originally from Houston, Texas, Onyewuchi attended kindergarten through high school in Nigeria, where she discovered her passion for mathematics and saw the need for greater access to reliable electricity. “My parents spent a lot on diesel for electricity from diesel generators that provided my siblings and I lighting and air conditioning to do our homework comfortably and succeed in school,” she says. “Electricity affects every aspect of life.”

Having since earned a PhD in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech, Onyewuchi has put her passion for science and mathematics into action as a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and as steering committee chair of the IEEE IAS and PES’s Power Africa initiative. The initiative holds its Power and Energy Conference in Africa every year, bringing together experts and students in manufacturing, power and energy, academia, government, banking, and more. Over the years, the initiative has held successful conferences in Zambia, Ghana, and South Africa.

Onyewuchi attributes the initiative’s success to her dedication, creativity, and Power Africa’s hardworking team members and volunteers. “I have been blessed with the most amazing teams, committees, and volunteers,” she says. “We constantly accept new volunteers, both African and non-African, to help with this program.”

She and her IEEE Power Africa team organize programs that encourage young girls to pursue STEM-related studies and that partner with other programs to identify, fund, and train fledgling solar entrepreneurs in Africa. In the future, Onyewuchi wants to expand outreach initiatives to attract potential donors and increase awareness of electricity fundamentals and solutions in Africa. She hopes that the initiative will also lead to greener power solutions.

“We are excited about where the program is now and where it is going,” she says.

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