Meet the boss
Growing up, Keitumetse Liphi was torn between dreams of becoming a soldier and his fascination with all things electronic.
Although he initially took the army route, joining the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) in 2011, the gifted youth’s spark for technology remained brighter than ever.
Thus Liphi sponsored himself to study Electronics Engineering at university, eventually setting up his own company, Ked-Liphi in 2016 – all while still in the BDF!
Earlier this year, the Senete native called time on his life in the army, putting his rifle away in order to concentrate on his business – and the rewards are already paying off big time for the Chedza Solar Backpack inventor…
Kindly introduce yourself?
I’m a 32-year-old man from Senete village in the North East of Botswana.
I currently hold High National Diploma in Electronics Engineering and a Certificate in Auto-Electric engineering from ABM University College.
Briefly take us through your working life?
I completed my high school at St Joseph’s College in 2009 then joined military school ‘Force Training Establishment’ in Pandamatenga.
It was hard but I kept on going.
After successfully completing my training, I sponsored myself to proceed to university though I was still working – I worked in the Defence Force from 2011 until 2022.
I grew up loving technology and wanted to be an engineer so I applied for university part-time and was admitted to do Electronics Engineering.
And how did you come to own your own business?
As a child, because of my fascination with technology I would disassemble Electronic gadgets and kept doing that until I was able to repair Televisions and Radios.
Around 2013 I started using my parents’ back room as my workshop; by 2016 I had officially registered my company, Ked-Liphi (Pty) Ltd, which is an innovation driven enterprise specialising in Electronics Engineering and Innovations.
What services and products does Ked-Liphi offer?
Our services start with repairing of electronic gadgets such as smart televisions, LED televisions, home theaters, laptops etc.
We also come up with automation solutions that address problems you may be having in office or at home.
So how have you found running a business?
Running a business is like having a child – it’s not an easy thing to do! I was fortunate because I could fund my business with my salary.
The biggest challenges I faced in my business is when we established the ‘Innovation Department’ in 2019.
To innovate is not an easy thing, neither is it cheap! So I had to commit more than ever before, my lifestyle, getting into debts.
Tell us a bit more about ‘Chedza’?
We invented a solar backpack to help students in rural areas with free, reliable and affordable energy for them to be able to study at night when they are home.
This solar backpack charges during the day using the sun, so that by the night a student will be able to use the LED light on the bag to study or charge their smartphone.
This backpack is made out of durable, waterproof canvas material, Solar panel, LED light and in & out put USB port.
What inspired the name?
Chedza is a kalanga name that means ‘Lesedi’ in Setswana and ‘Light’ in English.
This name was inspired by my origin and the impact we are bringing to Botswana and Africa as Ked-Liphi.
I understand there’s an intriguing back story to how you came up with the Chedza concept?
When Chedza solar backpack was idealized, we came across a student still using Tastic rice plastic bag to carry their books.
We gave him a ride home and when we got there we realized that things were very bad.
There was no food, no electricity etc. We decided to buy food for that family.
When we got back to the office after our trip, my team and I decided to come up with something to help the student carry his books and at the same time it should be able to give him light to study.
Since he walks a long distance to school, that’s when we came up with this solar backpack, that he will be able to carry his books and also absorb sun rays and store them as electricity so that when he gets home he can light the LED light on the bag to do his homework.
That’s brilliant! Tell us more.
Our mandate with this innovation is to bridge or close the digitization gap between students in ‘on grid’ areas and those in ‘of grid’ areas, to the less privileged students in rural communities across Botswana and Africa.
Chedza solar backpack is one of those innovations that will have a positive impact on the lives of people living in rural areas and in areas that has load shedding especially students, addressing [the United Nation’s] Sustainable Development Goal 4.
It is also an environmental friendly innovation that has a positive impact on climate change, affordable and reliable energy.
Batswana tend to shun new businesses; have you found this to be the case?
You know the only way to overcome a problem, especially as an entrepreneur, is to be patient and keep pushing.
Never give up in what you believe in despite how hard it may be.
Batswana has welcomed Chedza and can’t wait for it to be on stores.
Our mandate is to partner with Non Governmental Organisations, foundations, corporates, government so we can manufacture this backpack and they go and donate it to their communities, to those that need such an innovation.
Which organisations have you partnered with in production of this solar powered backpack?
We started with a prototype back in 2019 which was featured in CNN and between 2020 and 2021 we manufactured 100 to test the bag on how it will perform.
People have received it and really love this innovation so far across southern Africa.
We are Electronic Engineers and Innovators: we solve problems facing Africans from home to life changing solutions, including military technology.
We recently partnered with the U.S Army, this partnership is for them to assist Ked-Liphi achieve its goals of establishing the biggest Electronic Research and Development Center, with a mandate to bring innovators’ ideas to reality across Africa.
Any plans to take it outside Botswana for a broader market?
The only international organisation that we have partnered with is the U.S Army.
We are prototyping a military backpack with the same Chedza functionalities and additional features that are needed by military personnel when out in the field.
The brand Chedza was designed to show the world what we are capable of in Botswana so our focus is Africa as a whole and beyond.
We are going to be have different types of this backpacks from school backpack to solar traveling backpacks to solar military backpacks.
What’s the capacity of your production plant?
Currently we don’t have a plant – it’s just a workshop, located in Gaborone Block 8, where all this magic is happening.
Due to lack of funds, we have not yet established a plant, we are outsourcing to other local entrepreneurs.
So we are able to manufacture +/- 50 in a day.
Our aim is to have our own Chedza Solar Backpacks plant by April 2023 which will create employment for around 100 Batswana.
Are you currently working on any other innovative products?
Yes, we are working on couple of innovations.
As we speak, some of our clients have engaged us to do prototypes for them.
We also help people solve the problems they may have by coming up with solutions.
I can’t disclose the kind of innovations we are currently working on but soon people will learn and hear about them.
Lastly, what does the future hold for your company?
The future is so bright for my business and myself.
Our aim is to make a big impact in the technological space of Africa and the world at large.
In the next five years, we should be having an Electronic and Innovation Research and Development Hub.
We are calling on individuals willing to invest and partner with us to come forth.
We also encourage our government to support us so that we can have a positive impact on the technologically advancement of Botswana so we achieve our Vision 2036 goals as a country.