Students competing in Solar Decathlon Africa

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Solar Decathlon Africa, the international collegiate competition, kicked off this month. Team Mahali is one of the 20 selected teams and the only team from Sub-Saharan Africa chosen to compete.

Team Mahali was born at the Sustainability Institute and the majority of the team members are current or graduated students of the University of Stellenbosch’s Masters Programme in Sustainable Development presented at the Institute. Four members of the team travelled to Benguerir in Morocco to attend the briefing session and a series of workshops.

Solar Decathlon challenges student teams to design and build full-sized, solar-powered houses. Over the course of 18 months, students conceptualise, design and construct their houses, which will be shipped to the competition site where they will compete in the 10 competition events. The winner of the competition is the team with the best blend of design excellence, smart energy, production innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency.

Mahali means ‘place’ in Swahili and her motto is ‘One place, shared space’. The concept stretches beyond creating an innovative house. Mahali is embedded in the African and South African context and is specifically conceptualised to address South Africa’s alarming 30% unemployment rate. The house will have potential to transform into a shared, safe space where the unemployed can gather and community teachers can host skills-building workshops. Here, the unemployed are seen, heard and valued.

Apart from the technical aspects, Solar Decathlon Africa also adjudicates the public awareness raised around renewable energy, household energy innovation and sustainable living. In addition, the team is challenged to raise all the needed funds to design, develop and construct Mahali. It truly is a competition that stretches across disciplines and will teach students vital skills to apply in their future careers.

Contact Team Mahali to collaborate, contribute and follow their progress on this exciting and challenging journey! Team Mahali is on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Alternatively, mail