It all started with a late night beer in a hotel bar in Accra, when Thomas Poelmans & Christian Verbrugghe met while participating in the 2015 trade mission to Ghana organised by Flanders Investment & Trade.
Thomas was working under Green Crossroads as an independent consultant & project developer in search of a new venture. Christian was a director in Malthe Winje, a Norwegian engineering group with lots of experience in hydro power. That evening, Thomas received a crash course in hydro power and started dreaming about harvesting the power of running water to transform communities in rural Africa
Beginning as a small side project, Thomas began developing the concept and started searching for partnerships & potential sites to help bring his Hydrobox dream to life. His search took him to D.R. Congo in 2016 and to Cameroon in 2017.
However, it wasn’t until March 2018 when he was invited for a Trade Mission to Kenya that the pieces of the puzzle all fell together.
At this trade mission, Thomas was paired up with social entrepreneur and Kenyan native, John Magiro. Growing up without access to electricity, an ambitious Magiro sought out for change constructing his first micro hydro power plant from scratch - using only locally available standard engines, recycled bicycle parts and energy from the local waterfall.
He then founded Magiro Hydro Electric Limited which today provides affordable electricity to over 250 homes in the village of Mihuti.
For these two, it was instantly a match made in heaven. Magiro was technologically skilled, familiar with the area and looking to expand his production capacities; however, he lacked the business expertise to do so. Thomas, who is experienced in starting & scaling up businesses in Africa struggled with some technical aspects that John had figured out. They were each other’s missing link!
After the initial meeting, the Hydrobox seed was planted and began blooming. Thomas returned to Kenya that next month to visit the Magiro power plant and with fellow entrepreneur Roblain Namegni started working on a strategic plan to scale up the operations and fine tune the concepts using the Hydrobox technology that had further evolved since 2016.
The goal was to create an easily scalable version of the Magiro plant that would improve the social sustainability of the villages while also bringing in a high return on investment for shareholders. The Hydrobox concept can be described with 4 main characteristics: Small – no construction of dams, standardized – a model that fits a majority of sites, containerized – easily transportable and smart – block chain technology to improve financial transparency.
In May 2018 the two signed an agreement between Hydrobox and Magiro Power solidifying the partnerships and nurturing new possibilities. Going forward they decided to keep the brand Magiro Power to sell electricity directly to the consumer and supply power to the electricity grid under the name Hydrobox.
Hydrobox represents the potential to create or enhance an economy with renewable electricity. By 2025 the aim is to have 10 Hydroboxs’ up and running bringing the possibility of electricity to over 15,000 households or roughly 75,000 Kenyan citizens.