About Us


To help people help themselves. It is an extremely important aspect of this venture. The aim is not for profit but to create a business that gets people to realise that if they want to change the world they should do it themselves. This means alleviating poverty and creating a greener future.

It comes down to a choice. Either you believe anything is possible and the state of the world can change for the better or you resign yourself to the fact that there’s nothing you can do. Arthur C Clark wrote that “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” The same principle applies to life. If you believe that you can’t make a difference then you won’t. It takes visionaries to point out that anything is possible. That as long as you believe that there is a way you will never stop looking for it.


Promote women-empowerment. By starting micro-utility franchises in rural and informal settlements a tangible difference can be made for people who still have to live in the dark. By exploiting the versatility of renewable energy and a simple franchise business model these micro-utility businesses can be started across Sub-Saharan Africa. Ugesi links less privileged communities with the funding required to launch their own small mobile power station businesses. These franchises will feed back into SolarTurtle where the funds will be utilized to aid more communities with renewable energy solutions.


  • Stellenbosch Idea Competition winner, 2013
  • WWF Climate Solver accolade, 2014
  • Better Living Challenge runner-up, 2014
  • 110% Green Flagship listing, 2014
  • Cleantech open competition semi-finalist, 2015
  • Siemens, empowering people award winner, 2016
  • SEED Award for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development winner, 2016
  • AfriSam Sustainable architecture finalist, 2016
  • Africa Prize, Royal Academy of Engineering shortlisted, 2017
  • Katerva award finalist, 2017
  • Africa Utility Week, Most Innovative Technology of the Year winner, 2017
  • SA Innovation Summit, Inventors Garage Award winner, 2017
  • SAB Social Innovation Award, Grant winner, 2017
  • Accenture Innovation Awards, finalist, 2017
  • Design foundation, Design With Purpose Award, winner, 2017
  • Chivas the Venture award, finalist, 2018
  • Santam, Safety Ideas award, finalist, 2018
  • Mergon Group, Nation Builder Award, winner, 2018
Lungelwa Tyali

Lungelwa Tyali

NDip (Marketing and Communications), CEO, Co-founder

Lungelwa studied marketing and communication and has made her mark on the corporate world. For 6 years she was a Vice President at Ericsson Telecom and was responsible to expanding Ericsson into the Sub-Saharan market. However, she became disillusioned from corporate life and wanted to make an impact on the world. In 2007 she returned to her rural village where she grew up with the dream of making it on her own terms. Since then she has started numerous ventures but it was the renewable energy sector that really captured her attention.

Lungelwa has always had a passion for making a difference in people’s lives. She has leads many reading and study groups at the local school and has assisted with aspiring youngsters to go to university. Therefore it was no surprise that when the SolarTurtle business opportunity presented itself she jumped at the opportunity. Her rural solar kiosk business has successfully been in operation since June 2015 and has created employment opportunities for 6 young people from the community.

James Van der Walt

James Van der Walt

MEng. (Renewable Energy) BSc (Hons). Bsc. - CTO, Co-founder

James van der Walt is a social entrepreneur and engineer. In 2011 he quit his job as a software engineer in Ireland striving to do something more meaningful with his life. He soon realized that if you want to change the world, you should start with the places that need it most. In 2012 he moved back home to South Africa and founded Ugesi Gold, a social business with the vision of giving the power of tomorrow to those who are powerless today. He took the basic premise of the business to Stellenbosch University to research the idea thoroughly. In 2013 he completed his masters in mechanical engineering specializing in renewable energy. The product of his thesis was the SolarTurtle.

James is passionate about making a sustainable impact on the world and the SolarTurtle might just make that happen.

Charlene Barnes

Charlene Barnes

NDip (Information Technology) - Administrator, Co-founder

Charlene is a natural business strategist and has a keen eye for detail. She is a co-founder and her valuable inputs help push the company forward. She has work on large design projects and has more that 10 years worth of project management experience.

Ursula Julius

Ursula Julius


Ursula has extensive experience in the steel and construction industry with a keen passion for community electrification. She manages our sales department and ensures than many more communities are linked with clean green power.